They say that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (or at least that’s what it says on the thumb ring my grandmother got me for Christmas). My journey began when I stepped onto flight number 611; departing from the JFK airport in New York, but landing in Florence, Italy. I was incredibly nervous about my journey, mostly because of the titles, borders, and citizenship. I am not an Italian citizen. I do not speak their language, know their culture, or quite frankly, know anything about the place. Well, I did not know, I should say.
When I arrived in Florence, it was a completely new world. I was exposed to all types of new foods, style, and a new way of life. During the first few weeks, I tended to only hang out with my American friends that I had met on the plane ride over. We started to explore the city as well as beginning our classes. Speaking was a big concern of mine, because as I mentioned before, I did not speak any Italian. However, almost everyone I encountered in Florence spoke English pretty well.
Now let me tell you something about Italians….
Not all men look like they just walked out of an Armani ad. I know, I know, I was very disappointed as well. One of my first nights going out was with two of my friends to a club called Blanco. On our late night / early morning walk home, a man came out of an alley way and attempted to grab one of my friends. Naturally, I slapped the crap out of his cheek and we booked it down the street. He followed us, kicked me in the butt and pushed me to the ground, and then scampered back into the alley way for more prey. This, as you can imagine, gave me an iffy feeling about Italians. But, that feeling did not last long.
As I spent more and more time going out and socializing, I realized how silly I was for judging an entire population solely on this one man. There are disrespectful people all over the world; why had I generalized Italian men like this? I became extremely good friends with a lot of people over there. I met people who would go to the moon and back for me. They became some of my best friends; taking me out to a birthday dinner, walking twenty minutes out of the way to make sure I got home safe, and teaching me how to make a mean Bloody Mary behind the bar. I realized that people are people. There are no titles, no borders, just citizens. Of course my friends made fun of me for being a “stupid American,” but it was all in good fun, just as I made fun of them for not being able to properly pronounce my name.
When I left Italy, I left with a new perspective on people. I have friends in Florence that I consider my family, as well as friends in Switzerland, Amsterdam, Germany, Ireland, and Turkey. We cannot generalize based on where people come from. We are all just humans. No titles, no borders, world citizens.