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I’m Back.

It has been quite awhile since I have written on this blog. I was originally starting it to document my abroad experience, but being a photographer, I know I can’t capture everything in writing – or at least that’s not how I am.

I’ve noticed that since I’ve been back from Europe, I’m a different person – a completely different person. And to tell you the truth, part of me isn’t a fan. I was just going through photos on my laptop, and I found a bunch of selfies (no shame) that I had taken with my higher end cameras over the last few years. And to tell you the truth again, I wish I was still that girl in those pictures.

Don’t get me wrong, I have become super strong and independent, and have improved on other things, but pieces of my true self got lost when I was traveling, and I never found them again.

Going through reverse culture shock didn’t help, and a friend said it will last for a year, and I believe it. Coming back, I didn’t feel like myself…at all. Here’s the thing, I found myself in some places, and completely lost myself in other places – which I don’t like. I feel like I became this really depressed, uncreative, and unmotivated person when I came back to the US, and a majority of time, I still feel like that.

I feel like I was so full of life before going abroad, and when I came back, I was feeling all different emotions at once. It sucked. I didn’t feel like the girl before leaving for abroad, and I miss that girl quite a lot.

Fast forward to now, I have a lot of days that aren’t the best, but my friends can still make me laugh – they’re the light shining in my darkness. Anyone who talks to me on any platform on a daily basis, it means the world to me.

This article might be all over the place, but back in July, I started writing for The Odyssey Online. Another creative outlet that I needed because I haven’t had much motivation with my YouTube channel lately. Writing, in general, is something that I didn’t think I would enjoy because I absolutely despised it growing up. Writing for The Odyssey was one of the best decisions I made during the summer. Although right now, I’m struggling to keep up with it with all my school work. I don’t want to stop writing for it, but I also feel like I can really write whatever I want on here. With The Odyssey, I can write just about anything I want – but to an extent.

Because I have so many projects due each week for school, I have no clue how often I will be writing on here. I hope to do once a week, but I will just have to see how everything plays out.

Whoever is reading this, I hope your day goes well, and I’ll be back with another post soon.

xoxo

Jordan

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Reverse Culture Shock

*Note that I started writing this on May 8th to May 10th*

It’s my third day back in the US, and just like my entire abroad experience, it’s been a total rollercoaster.

I am currently at my college visiting friends, I slept over, it’s 6:48 am the next day as I am writing this, and I have been wide awake for two hours.

I know for three-and-a-half months straight I had to wake up early every day for school, weekend trips, spring break, etc, and now that I’m back home, I am constantly waking up at 5 am or earlier and not being able to fall back asleep.

Why?

Time zones.

Italy is 6 hours ahead of the East coast. And traveling backward from Italy to Boston, I went from 6 hours ahead in Italy, back one hour in London, and London is 5 hours of the East coast, and then I went back to the “normal” time zone.

When I started traveling for study abroad in mid-January, I had all sorts of feelings and emotions.

And to be honest, after hearing about terrorist attacks in touristy areas for years and tragic stories of abroad students passing away just a few months before leaving, I did not want to leave my home country.

I never said it to anyone but had I anxiety and stress about these things all the time before going abroad, and I was wondering if I would even make it out alive.

But I did.

I didn’t run into any problems like that while abroad.

It was just all in my head.

And once again before going abroad, I was wishing my time there would fly by–which is not something the average abroad student would wish.

If you’ve been following my blog since it started, you know that I had experienced a bad month of culture shock, and while most of those feelings left, others did not, like homesickness for example.

I was never not homesick. I’d travel with my close friends, and while traveling to different places was great and all on the weekends, it wasn’t the same because I didn’t have my people with me.

And that was one of the many hard things I had to deal with going abroad.

Of course, I love the people that I met and held close to me during my abroad experience, but it wasn’t the same.

 

I know I came back as a changed person, with more creative ideas spewing out in my mind twenty-four-seven, being open-minded, loving myself a little more/more confident, more independent, the list could go on.

Although I have changed in ways, I am still the girl who is sensitive, and who still has an obsession with makeup, fashion, photography, and art. The girl that can be easily entertained and just laugh at everything, and the girl who still has anxiety and stress. But that’s normal…for me anyways.

It’s difficult to move to another country for three-and-a-half months, but it’s also difficult to move back and attempt the same morning routine you had before leaving, and getting accustomed to everything.

Truth is, that morning routine you had before, won’t be the same now. Mine definitely isn’t.

A friend told me, “It’s hard because you’re sleeping when you’re supposed to be eating meals and vise versa.”

I honestly didn’t think that reverse culture shock would hit me that hard because instead of wanting to live in a country I’ve always dreamed of visiting, I wished I was home. Every day. All one-hundred-and-six days I was abroad.

Within these past five days, I can’t eat American food the same, and I’m never hungry. Before going abroad I wouldn’t say I was never hungry, but I got full very easily and I still do, so I didn’t eat as much as others during the day. While abroad, I walked everywhere, and the food was too good, so I was eating all the time. Now, it feels rare if I get hungry during the day. Most of this has to do with the time difference, and because of the stress from experiencing reverse culture shock. I tried eating a piece of pizza while visiting school friends, and although it was tasted pretty good, it wasn’t the same, and it won’t be the same.

Now it’s a day later (May 9th), and the reverse culture shock is hitting me even more. I’ve read a lot of articles about the topic and they all say you will go through different stages, and I feel like all of those five to ten stages are hitting me all at once.

The exhaustion (oh boy more than anything) and how I could fall asleep at any location anytime, the loss of appetite, having so many ideas and tasks in your head that you think about being confident in completing them, but you never actually act upon them. The stage where you just want to tell close ones your experiences, but you don’t want to say everything and have nothing to say about it for the rest of your life. The stage where you’re feeling stressed, depressed, and have anxiety hitting you all at once. It’s just one of those things where you don’t know how to handle it and sometimes you have to learn to deal with it and wait for the feelings and emotions of reverse culture shock to fade away.

If you were in my position abroad, student or not, I’m not going to sugar coat anything and I will tell you that it’s not fun, and it will suck. Out of all the articles I have read from real people and hearing about it from people I personally know, I’ve never heard one person say that it didn’t hit them as hard, or they didn’t experience it. This is 100% a real thing, and I myself was warned about it before I even got culture shock.

It’s something that will happen, and it’s kind of one of those bumps in the road that may take awhile to get up and over, but once you’re over, you’ll be fine. I’m not saying I’m at the final stage yet, I’m nowhere near halfway, but I know I’ll get there, and so will you.

As for my career, I still consider myself a freelance photographer. I’m the type of person, depending on what it is, can get sick of something quickly, and so I personally don’t and cannot take photographs of one subject for the rest of my life. I love taking pictures of everything.

I attended my photography final last Tuesday, which is weird to think about, and each of us in the class told everyone what kind of photographers we are, and small stories behind each photograph that we chose. My photographs included a little bit of everything, where there were nature and food, and other things that I photographed. Everyone had a little over ten pictures printed on really nice, high-quality photo paper. After explaining my stories behind each photograph, I went on to say why I consider myself as a freelance photographer. Life is so beautiful to me, and I want to capture just about anything.

Something that struck me the most a few years ago was that on some social media app, there was a quote about photography, and it said, “A photographer takes pictures of what they are afraid to lose in their life.” 

So now photographers you follow on social media, photographers that you know in real life, and also yourself based on what YOU photograph, you’re thinking of what everyone including yourself is afraid to lose. And your assumption is probably right based on my photographs–I’m afraid to lose a lot from what the world offers us. I never really thought deeply into what people photograph until I came across that quote. It’s so true though if you really think about it.

It’s May 10th, and I’m just slightly better. It’s only been five days. I went to bed just a tad later than I have been, and I still woke up after 5 am, but I was able to go back to sleep and wake up a couple of times, and I consider that as improvement.

All in all, reverse culture shock is real. Keep yourself busy. Seriously, take those naps if you feel like you have to. I’m happy to say I have my boyfriend, my family, and my friends by my side through each step of this process, because going through culture shock was hard enough without them there.

 

 

Things I Wouldn’t do in America

Have you ever traveled to a different country or even a state, and their norms don’t seem at all “normal” to you? When I first arrived in Italy, there were so many different things happening left and right that was normal to them, but it was overwhelming for me. You mean the vehicles won’t even slow down for you?

  1. Eat a panini every day for breakfast. Italy doesn’t have normal breakfasts here like in America. It is definitely far from eating at IHOP. Most Italians will buy some type of drink and a pastry, and that’s it. Good luck waiting until lunchtime.
  2. Going along with different breakfast styles, Eat your food standing up in a bar (cafe, restaurant). What I’ve learned is that it actually costs more to sit down in bars (They are cafes, but are called bars because they also serve alcoholic drinks) than it is to stand up and eat. Which I guess now that I think about it more, it does make sense. Anyways, the only time I eat standing up is in my house kitchen, and when I’m in a rush. There’s no way I’ll be going to Panera Bread and eat my bread bowl standing up.
  3. Walk in the middle of the road. I feel like walking just slightly on the road in America you can get hit. The roads in Italy are city roads, so they are smaller. So small that two cars can’t be going opposite directions on the same road, cyclers are lucky they can even fit most of the time. It is so much easier to walk in the middle of the road and really any area of the road you prefer. You just have to avoid vehicles and dodge humans, but not their dogs. Never dodge the dogs.
  4. Speaking of avoiding vehicles, they will NOT stop for you. I think the whole two months I’ve been here, there have been a few occasions where a vehicle has let me go forwards–and that’s rare. Vespas? Forget it.
  5. Not say “Excuse me” while passing by someone. When I first got to London, the people were faster walkers than I am, and didn’t move out of the way. They also never said “excuse me.” Most of the time I say, “Scuzi,” or “Scuza,” depending on if the situation was formal or informal (I guess I learned something from Italian), but other times I go without saying it. I considered myself of local after living there for three-and-a-half months. Not language wise, but tourist season just started in the beginning of March, and all I wanted were my emptier streets and shorter activity lines back.

 

Needless to say, everywhere you go will be different. There are probably so many things in the country you live in or are visiting in, you would never do where you grew up. I mean I would certainly not drink a cappuccino at 8 pm and then be completely wired, but hey, everywhere is different. Going off that, it’s not a thing to drink cappuccinos after dinner, mine was just offered to me for free. BUT, do learn about other cultures and spot out similarities and differences from your culture, you might learn something new!

Everyone Should Have This Photography App On Their Phone

Hello! Long time no talk. Midterms and field trips…and more field trips are coming up! This week I’ll be going to the Ferragamo Museum with my Fashion Marketing and Retail class, and this weekend I’ll be heading to Siena for a day trip that was included in my program. Also, I’m not sick anymore. The stomach flu was probably one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced, sick wise, and I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy. Stay healthy.

I want to start a series on my blog reviewing different things. Whether it’s a photography app or things in Florence, or anywhere else I’ve been, and more. I’m sure everyone who has been following up on my blog and just talking to me in general, are wondering what places I would recommend in Florence. I think that would be great for people who are traveling to Florence, and are looking for things to do (or eat…cause that’s all I do).

Anyways, on my photography Instagram, I follow a little over 160 accounts, and a majority of them are professional photography accounts, of course. I have experience with Photoshop, but not with Lightroom. Being abroad, I don’t have the extra money to spend $90 on a filter pack for Lightroom that I really liked nor do I have the extra money to buy a program on my laptop. So, last night, I searched on Google, “Apps like Lightroom for iPhone.” The first link that popped up was an article talking about an app called, “Darkroom.”

Reading the article, I learned that Darkroom was created by ex-employees of Apple and Facebook. From looking at Lightroom filters in the past, and even Photoshop filters, the Darkroom filters look pretty similar. I used to be a “VSCO-only” kind of person, but not so much anymore. I discovered an app just a couple of weeks ago called 1967 that I was using constantly, but then quickly realized I need something different. I will be inserting screenshots of comparisons between Darkroom (free, in-app purchases), 1967 (free, in-app purchases), and VSCO cam (free, in-app purchases). I will also be inserting screenshots of what filters I use with what type of picture, and so on.

Darkroom is probably my favorite editing app right now, even though I’ve only had it for a day. It was love at first download.

Darkroom can be similar to other editing apps where they have the filters, and the editing section of exposure, contrast, saturation, etc. Darkroom however, has specific filter packs for specific pictures that do cost about $1.99 each, but if you want all of them, then it costs about $5.99 total I believe. I would say that’s pretty cheap for lightroom-esque filters, compared to $90.

When you download the Darkroom app, it does already come with filters, and they are good starting out filters. You don’t have to buy the extra filter packs if you’re looking for some quick editing, but being a photographer, I personally want more control over my photos. I like to edit them in a way where I still use filters but the picture doesn’t look super filtered, and where it doesn’t look too noticeable compared to the original. Besides, why would you super filter nature? Or a person? Both are beautiful just how they are. But if certain filters and edits are your type of aesthetic, by all means, go for it.

Another thing about the Darkroom app that is different from the rest, is that you can create your own filter. To be honest, this is something I haven’t tried yet, because I just got the app and I’m am still figuring out how to do it, but I’m sure it’s a really nice feature. You can also use curves, cropping, straightening, you name it. Everything you’ve ever wanted in a free photo editing app, Darkroom has it.

I have screenshotted quite a bit of edits and features from the app so I could visually tell you what the app looks like when you open it, how I edited certain pictures with specific filters, etc.

In the darkroom store, you can purchase what ever packs you choose, or you can buy all 4.

  1. XPRO – ” 5 filters offer an homage to the age of cross processed film.”
  2. PORTRAITS – “5 filters tailor-made to add punch and emotion to skin tones.”
  3. LANDSCAPES – “For the blue sky, the green grass, and the yellow sand, 5 premium, custom-made filters.”
  4. B&W – “Rediscover the range that B&W photography is capable of with these 5.”

 

Another great thing (I’m telling you this app is amazing) is that in the Darkroom Store section, swipe down and they have what they call, Darkroom Sunday School. Love the name. The pack(s) that you purchase, offer one or more articles on the photography/filter style, how to pick one filter from the other in the pack, and also how to specifically edit them in the app. I am just falling in love all over this app. You can still look at the articles even before buying anything.

I would also like to point out that I took all of these photos on my camera–Sony Alpha a58. I got a few great shots with my iPhone 5s, but I prefer my camera. I am pretty sure I had my ISO at 100 and 400 for the pictures, and I was on “P” (Program). Having a lower ISO creates smoother-looking pictures, and higher ISO settings can create more grainy, soft (not in a good way), not-so sharp images–at least that’s something I just recently experienced, and I looked up tips on it on Pinterest.

Here I have examples of some pictures that I just took recently at Piazza Michelangelo in Florence–highly recommend, just be prepared to walk up some hills. It’s worth it though, because you’ll not only have great pictures, but you’ll also have calves of steel.

 

When you first open the app, it brings you to,”All Photos,” which is also your camera roll, and app library all in one. What’s nice is that the photos you have edited will have a little pencil with circle around it telling you that you’ve already edited that picture. Amazing. Using other editing apps, I sometimes couldn’t tell what pictures I edited and which ones I didn’t. Good thinking Darkroom.

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You also have other categories like, “Favorite,” and “Edited.” “Favorite” holds the pictures you that you really like after you edit them, and you don’t have to scroll through hundreds of pictures to find that one. All you have to do is tap the heart at the top when editing a photo. “Edited” has the pictures that you have already edited. You can find those edited pictures also in the “All Photos.”

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Here is one of the many sunset pictures I took last night, using one of the “Landscapes” filters called, “L110.” L110 is a filter that I discovered that I like to use for sunsets. I will get into another filter I discovered that I also like to use for sunsets that isn’t in the Landscapes pack.

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Clicking on the filter, you can adjust how much or how little of the filter you want on your picture. I usually drag the circle down to this spot on almost all of my pictures, sometimes I’ll make it halfway, but it depends on the original’s colors and the fiter I choose.

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I went into the editing section, and pretty much for every photo, I will bring up the contrast, saturation, and temperature up at the slightest. Sometimes I will bring the brightness either up or down on the picture as well.

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Here is another sunset picture with more color, and I decided to bring the filter down to just below the middle, otherwise it would’ve looked super filtered. Still using L110.

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I also used the same editing section steps as the first example.

This next picture was of the sunset, but in a brighter area, so the sunset wasn’t as noticeable. Still very pretty and pastel though. (original)

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I experimented with the Landscape filters, but I didn’t like the look of them on this picture, so I went into “Portraits,” and I found P400, that made it look even more beautiful (in my opinion).

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With this one, I turned down the brightness, and then continued with my normal steps on the others edits.

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For city-scapes and non-sunset pictures, I use the filter L220, and once again, brought up the brightness as well as  contrast, saturation, and temperature. (First: original, Second: filtered and edited)

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Here are two pictures of the comparison between L110 and P400:

As you can see, L110 is more blue-toned and brighter, while P400 is more pink-toned and pastel.

After editing a picture, to save it, swipe down on the screen, which will bring your picture forward so you can see the finished product, and on the top right-hand corner will be a “Share” button, and click that. When you click share, you can do, “Save as copy,” which is what I click, and it saves to your “All Photos” folder as well as your camera roll on your phone. You can also save as a square photo, and it has different percentages of how much of a white border you want on the sides or not at all. If swipe down again, you have more options to share to other social medias.

 

Now I will insert screenshots of what I would do if I was editing a picture in the VSCO cam app.

 

If I am editing a photo in VSCO, I usually use either HB1 or HB2, but those are pre-made filters, and they didn’t really do much for this picture. So I used K2 which is a filter that I use sometimes, more in the summer though.

Now we have the 1967 app. When I was obsessed with this app for 2 weeks, I was telling a good handful of people about it. My go-to filter was Wild Thing, and I will show what other filters that I have used that could go with this picture. Now having Darkroom, it’s not my go-to app anymore, but it is still a good filter app.

On the occasion, I will use Facetune to bring out details, whiten areas, and blur backgrounds, but that is more for YouTube thumbnails.

That is my review on the Darkroom app that you can download through the app store. Just like every editing app that you are excited to download, there may be better ones that will come out, but as for right now, Darkroom is my holy grail photo editing app.

Let me know in the comments section what your favorite photo editing app is and why you like it so much!

 

xx   Jordan

 

LAZY Sunday

I am really emphasizing on the word “lazy,” because that’s what I am today.

I woke up after 9 am, and of course, I stayed in bed.

I did the usual non-productive routine of listen to Spotify, and go on social media.

I haven’t really been picking up the Italian language as much as I had hoped for. Not saying it isn’t the only hard one to learn, but it’s definitely one of them. I decided to look up on google, “learn Italian.” I am currently creating a huge Quizlet set with all the basics to help me more with the language.

Being in an Elementary Italian I class, you would think that we would be going over maybe animals, or just certain words that are basic. We did go over some basic things, and we are learning basic phrases, numbers, and now verbs and all that stuff–which is really what I am having trouble with, but we’re just going too fast. We just had our 1st test recently, and now we’re having another test in two days, and then we’ll have our midterm soon! I don’t like it!

The class is SO long. It’s T TH from 2:40 – 4:40 pm. My last class out of three that day. There I am starving, falling asleep, and frustrated.

It’s also hard when everyone is at a different level than you, even in the same class. I feel like I am the absolute slowest learner in that class. My brain just doesn’t pick up things that quickly. You would have to say something a million times in order for it to be drilled in my head, and even sometimes, I still won’t remember it. But hey, that’s just my brain.

After I entered over 100 terms into my Quizlet, I started feeling so tired, and it was after 1 pm. I honestly just knocked out. I took 2 naps. I don’t know how I was that tired.

It is now almost 4 pm, and I feel like the time is flashing before my eyes.

Sunday’s aren’t my best motivation days.

Do you ever wake up and think I’m going to do this this this this and this today and I will feel so productive and have my life together? Yeah, that’s me every single week. I still somehow can’t find the motivation to do some things.

I was thinking maybe after I write this blog post, it will help me “start my day.” Help me get going a little bit. Well, we’ll see.

If you have any great motivation tips, PLEASE write them down in the comments section. It would help me a tremendous amount 🙂

 

xx   Jordan

How Culture Shock Tore Me Apart

I’ve been putting off this blog post for a number of reasons: school, traveling, being sick, and waiting for myself to not feel the shock anymore. It took almost a month, but I’ve heard it’s all normal. I’ve never heard someone having culture shock for more than a month, but maybe I’m wrong and there’s someone out there that has.

Of course culture shock sneaks up on you when you’re in my position traveling out of the US for the first time pretty much by yourself, but I think it snuck up on me at the worst possible time. But towards the end, aka one week ago, it all stopped, and motivated me to get back up again.

It didn’t hit me in London, and I think it’s because everyone spoke English and to me it was like New York City & Boston had a baby. I’ve seen some suburban-like neighborhoods, but I stayed in a city hotel. There were trees and grass though, so let’s just keep that in mind.

In Rome it started to slowly creep up on me. I didn’t realize how difficult it was to make friends when everyone came with their friends from school, and I was just kind of sitting there in the dust.

Of course I met some people, but it wasn’t quite the same. Back at school, especially freshman year, I had no problem going up to people during orientation, and even just throughout the year saying hi to someone, or complimenting someone on what they’re wearing–something I still do and you should too. This time it’s a little different. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met a LOT of nice girls in my program, friends and acquaintances, but there are just some people who seem very intimidating, and sometimes it’s actually just me who is afraid to go up and start a conversation with someone. I’ll admit that I’ve been super quiet and anti-social this semester, and I didn’t expect that to happen. I’m getting better as I am currently making my way into a friend group, but the bottom line is that it’s still hard for me.

I remember one of the nights in Rome, I was sitting alone in my hotel room. If I remember correctly, I think it was a night I was supposed to go out with some people I just met in Rome (still love them to this day), and I was all excited and I put my going-out makeup on, eyeshadow and all. I put on my moto jacket on with a nice shirt, black jeans, and booties. I needed something to lift my mood, clear my head, and get out of the hotel room. Considering there are over 130 people in my program (maybe more, maybe less), the wifi was NEVER working because everyone was trying to get on it all at once. Part of this was my fault for not getting any of the people’s numbers, I just gave my number to one person, but at the same time, it wouldn’t have mattered because the wifi wasn’t working. I knocked on a few of the people’s doors, but there was silence. I went back to my room and tried messaging them on Instagram, because I thought that would work better. It was about 25 minutes that had gone by and I was getting a little worried. I went on one last round with the knocks, and once again, silence. At this point I gave up and went back to my room. I was so tired, and a little mad and frustrated to be honest. I ended up taking a shower and then going on the House Party app to finally see Kevin’s face in action. I was trying SO hard not to cry in front of him. This was when the culture shock was hitting me even more. I’ve balled my eyes out multiple times in front of him since last year, but I was trying to stay strong for the sake of myself. I got a little teary-eyed, but I held back the tears. After our conversation ended, the tears absolutely exploded out of me. I couldn’t control myself. I was holding the tears in for one weekwhich is SO unhealthy. It was the worst feeling ever. All the thoughts came to my head of, “How am I going to live without everyone for this many months?” And, “When is this awful feeling going to end?” After a little while, I was able to stop crying. I collected myself. In my opinion, crying doesn’t make you weak, crying makes you stronger. Crying is absolutely normal, and if you need to cry, just do it. Crying always helps me feel better. Sometimes you just need to let it out. Don’t let things bottle up inside you. Even I still do it sometimes, but it’s best that you don’t.

Even after I cried, I still thought, “How am I going to communicate with people without wifi?” I know that can come off as me being attached to my phone, but do you know how hard it was to move to another country and wanting to tell people about everything you’re doing, and this ONE thing was preventing you from doing so for over a week? Very hard. Someone had said to me, “It’s just a phone.” Yup, it’s just a phone that just so happens to have my whole life on there and different ways to communicate with people that I love and miss dearly from home and school who are more than 4000 miles away. Yup, just a phone.

I eventually found out the next day with the people that I was supposed to hang out with the night before, that no one could get in touch with each other because the wifi was awful and that some people who did leave the hotel, got separated from each other.

Now, fast-forward to officially moving to Florence, my birthday, classes and pmsing. TMI, but it has to do with a lot with how I was feeling.

Moving into my new and *first* apartment really lifted my spirits. I’ve mentioned in a past post where my three other roommates and I had such low expectations, and we lucked out because we ended up getting one of the nicest apartments compared to everyone else in the program. Brand new building, two brand new apartments, one of them us four live in, and then four other girls live in the other one across from us. I feel like I am living in a cross between a five-star hotel suite, the Princess Diaries 2 suite, but also kinda modern, and chic, omg it’s everything. A towel warmer guys…we have a towel warmer attached to the wall. My life was made.

We moved in on a Saturday, and classes started that upcoming Monday. I always get so nervous for new classes for a new semester, but it turned out just fine. I was extremely exhausted, but it was fine. For about 2-3 weeks of living in Florence, I was miserable. I don’t know if it was showing on my face, but I was not happy. After all that paperwork I had to do in October and run around like a crazy person on campus getting signatures, and more paperwork, and mailing and faxing and emailing and at that time, I would’ve thought it would be worth it in the end, but I didn’t think that at all. Of course our first week it was rainy every day and I was pmsing, and in the words of one of my best friends, “Your pms is no joke.” Absolute most awful time of the month, a lot girls can agree, and for some reason, I feel better on the first day my period comes, and after that first day, everything turns to crap again. I was so moody, and I didn’t want to be in my dream country whatsoever.

Culture shock was tearing me apart, and I didn’t know what to do.

I was trying to make myself inspired by everything around me, and see the beauty in everything. My eyes were always teary, so everything was blurry, and all I saw were blobs. I didn’t see beauty in anything. I tried. It wasn’t sunny. It was cold. It was rainy some days. The mornings are always so cold when I have to get up early and leave early to walk to my 9ams. The streets can get really gross sometimes with cigarettes, smells of the sewer, trash, dirty puddles, dog poop, and sometimes puke. Yup, really beautiful right there.

I felt worthless. I felt like I lost all excitement and passion for wanting to come to Italy. For wanting to jumpstart my career with photography. All inspiration, all passion–gone.

I had to force myself to stop looking at people’s snapchat stories from home, especially on weekends. Weekends are for partying at college, and relaxing, and hanging out with friends, and then there’s some studying. And although I was always with everyone at separate times during the week at school, on the weekends it was different, because we were all in the same room having fun without a care in the world. And this semester, I’m not in that room. That room is 4000 miles away.

It felt like no one wanted to hang out with me. I was always the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and so on, choice. I didn’t feel wanted. I wanted my school friend group back, where I actually felt wanted. Sometimes I still have that feeling.

I knew culture shock for me was going to end soon, but it felt like it was never ending. Last week, was the last time I had culture shock to the fullest. I was once again, holding in my tears for almost week. I almost started crying more than 5 times during a field trip in Tuscany. Everyone was so happy and giggly, and I just wanted to curl up in a ball, hide in my room until the day I leave in May. 68 days…but who’s counting.

It was a Thursday, my friend/neighbor’s birthday, and the day I got my period. I felt so relieved and happy that day. That’s when I thought the culture shock ended, but I was wrong once again. We went out to a bar, and it was actually a great time. They wanted to go to a club that I absolutely do not like after going there once. It would have been great if the guys weren’t touchy and gross. The amount of times I said, “I have a boyfriend!” was uncountable.

I went back to the apartment, and two friends walked me back. The bar is super close to my apartment, but you always want to be safe at night no matter what. I was alone in my apartment, and granted I did drink a little, but I definitely wasn’t drunk. Getting drunk is illegal here, and being a lightweight can be difficult, but I was just buzzed, nothing more. And I started crying. A lot. It was a loud cry, and thankfully I was alone. I wanted to scream. I ugly-cried for an hour. A cry where I really tried to stop crying, but I couldn’t and just kept crying and crying. This was when I thought I couldn’t do it. I was waiting for the headlines to say, “Girl Couldn’t Handle Being Abroad.” I couldn’t handle it at all. I couldn’t figure out why this had hit me so hard and for such a long time.

But then I thought to myself,

“Jordan, this is normal. Everyone who travels abroad with school or not, goes through this. It’s okay. And it’s okay to not feel okay, but you’ll eventually get through this. When May comes, you’re not gonna want to leave this country. Think of how good the food is here. The pizza, the pasta, the gelato, the wine, etc. You are one of the luckiest girls right now to be studying abroad and following your dreams. Most people haven’t been able to make it as far as you have. You can create beautiful photographs, even if they’re not exactly like the ones you see on Instagram, which is fine, because everyone has a different style–but you’ll get there. You can paint, heck you’re not just in regular painting, you’re in an intermediate/semi-advanced painting class. Painting II to be exact. You’re finally not stuck in a bubble, and you have different places you can go to take pictures, not just your campus and your small home-state. You have a city. You live in a city. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but you’ve always wanted to do it at least once in your life. Your Photography for the Media class is challenging you in a good way. Your photography professor is the only photography teacher that has made everything you’re learning about how to use the camera actually stick in your head. Your painting professor is your favorite. He is the one who is challenging you the most with art, and now you’re the best painter than you’ve ever been before. You live near high-end shops, and have two 3-floor H&M stores, 2 Brandy Melville stores, 2 Sephora’s, MAC, etc. You may not have your favorite, go-to shopping stores around, and you can’t wear bright colors or sweatpants outside, but you know that Florence fashion, and even the girls’ style in your program is inspiring you to try out new clothing. You are living the dream Jordan, and you can’t even see it or feel it. But that’s all going to change now.”

After that I really collected myself. Yes, I was on my period, and our mood fluctuates, but from the moment I said that to myself, and the day my period ended, I could finally see. I felt like my eyes were finally opening from the darkness, and I was able to see light. I was able to stop and look at what’s around me (all food & clothing stores). It all started to feel real.

Oddly enough, traveling to Switzerland last weekend helped me. Switzerland was unreal and super expensive. Although I didn’t want to leave the great scenery behind, it made me realize how much I was missing Florence. How much cheaper everything was mostly, but also the friends and the food. Thankfully there were trees and grass in Switzerland, but in order for me to get used to living in a city, I need to learn to live without a few things first.

Coming back from Switzerland, I got sick, and still currently am with the stomach flu. Some things aren’t easy here, but at least I am doing my best to push through these obstacles.

Besides the stomach flu, culture shock was probably the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Culture shock is something that is real, and it can be awful for awhile, but if you ever find yourself stuck in it, talk to yourself about these things:

  • what is around you
  • who is around you
  • what are some good things about the place
  • why did you choose to come here
  • what are your goals for here that may relate to your career
  • what can you do to fix your mood
  • what can you do differently in general
  • what are you good at
  • what are you accomplishing

 

Remind yourself that you are not worthless. You have people who love and care about you a lot. That’s something I constantly remind myself everyday. They’re waiting back at home to hear stories and accomplishments, and see a smile on my face, not a rain cloud above my head.

Yes, school can be dreadful with those early times, and long hours, but everything is starting to fall into place. Everything is getting better.

 

xx   Jordan