Sharing different experiences and perspectives

I was invited to speak at a friendís class of college students who have been here for a semester. At first, I was a little hesitant to go because the topic was globalizzazione (globalization). I wasnít sure I had anything to add, but my friend told me I did. She wanted me to talk with her students about my living and working in different countries, especially Florence, as well as what Iíve learned from other expats I know and have interviewed.

After the students introduced themselves this morning, I introduced myself. I recounted my journey to Florence and how I was led through France and England before arriving here. I hadnít thought about Florence as a global city before. It has some of the qualities of an international city, like a mix of nationalities, but also provincial because it is grounded in its local culture and language.

I found each studentís view of Florence quite interesting. As one student astutely pointed out, it depends on a personís definition of globalizzazione. Some said that for them a city was global because it had more of the American chain restaurants and shops. One student commented how she felt that Florence was in a time warp because every time she left for a day or so and then returned, she felt she had regressed 200 years.

Because the students hadnít had much experience living outside of the US, their point of reference might not be as broad. My point of reference is certainly not any broader. I know very little about what globalizzazione means because I havenít lived around the globe.

I was very happy that the students asked me many interesting questions because I could see their curiosity at work. One student asked me if I ever found it too difficult to live in a foreign place and just wanted to return to the US. I told her that I had some difficult moments living overseas, but I never considered returning for that reason. My most difficult experience was when I was 22 and had just moved to one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Paris. I had dreamed of living in France, and there I was alone in my studio apartment after a long day at work, feeling sad and lonely. I had focused so hard on my one dream, that I didnít realize I needed to create an entire life for myself. It took me about a year to finally feel comfortable and truly enjoy my life again. Fortunately for me, that one experience helped me to adapt easier in my succeeding moves.

I had never spoken to a small group of students before, but it was an enriching experience for me. I rarely have interactions with students so it was interesting for me to hear about their experiences and expectations of living in Florence. After I left, it dawned on me just how difficult it must be to live in a place for only a few months and try to be at home, yet never feel at home. It made more sense to me why so many of them seek the comforts of home, like hanging out with other Americans, eating certain foods, etc.

Many said that their experience here was surreal because theyíll never get another chance like this again in their lives. A few said that theyíll miss Italy because they were able to see and experience new things as well as visit different places. In the end, I believe their experience was a positive one. Maybe if they came again for a longer period of time and were able to integrate more with the people and the city, their experience might be even richer.

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