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

 

 

 

 

 

Packing List for Study Abroad Italy 2017

Oh boy is packing overwhelming. I am not trying to start off this post on a bad note or anything but packing for 3 1/2 months (January 20th, technically the 21st – May 5th) is definitely challenging. I am almost twenty-one, and yes I am into fashion, and yes, I have an excessive amount of clothing…and stuff…but mostly clothing. It’s not like I’m packing summer clothing, but since it is still winter, and although Florence’s cold temperatures won’t make your face feel like it’s falling off, ya still gotta pack those sweaters. In reality, I should be continuously packing right now, but I knew I wanted to get a post out there like this, and I should get it out now.

This post will be all about my packing list for abroad, and if I can find the products online, I will definitely have their links as well. I was going to include my travel essentials, but this would be extremely long so I will write that in a separate post, along with makeup/skincare. My packing list is a list that my program with AIFS put together for the Spring semester, for those chillier days and when it starts to get warmer. Definitely nothing summery, unless I plan to go somewhere warm, or if YOU plan on going somewhere warm. This post should help students who are in my position right now going abroad, and maybe to the same place, anyone who travels regularly and needs inspiration, or a person/student who is thinking about going abroad and wants a sneak-peek into what the packing actually looks like. I have read dozens of articles on what to pack for Florence, and what things women should wear. What I have collected from those articles are that:

  1. Neutrals will help you blend in, and not make you stand out–that’s how the locals will depict on if you are a tourist or not. There are quotes telling you to “stand out from the crowd”…yeah…not in this case. In Florence, locals like to wear neutrals because it comes off as classier, and that is their normal dress code. I read that locals are proud for when themselves or anyone who dresses up. It is not in their dress code to wear sweats, flip flops, and other touristy items if you know what I mean. If you were going to exercise, that’s a different story. Express yourself more that way, but I myself will still keep things slightly neutral when it comes to that point. Standing out with wearing brighter colors is taking a risk for making yourself a target to get pick-pocketed.
  2. Bring one scarf, and bring it everywhere. Some historical and religious areas expect visitors to dress more conservative, and I think you have to pay some sort of fee if you are not dressed appropriately, but I could be wrong. Scarfs can change an outfit instantly, and they provide warmth.
  3. Pack light. But who are we kidding with a fashion-loving, twenty-year-old YouTuber. Although, I think I am doing pretty good. You know the longest trip I’ve ever been was for 2 weeks at a summer camp. And that time I brought more, which is probably hard to believe. Man did I over-pack or what. “I think I’ll need these black and green striped tights because last year we did a dress-up activity with them.” Hell to the no. For the love of God, don’t bring items like that–anywhere you go. Did I use those Halloween witch-esque tights? Probably not. Did it take up some space where I could have easily fit something else in there that I needed like a toothbrush or a hat to keep myself from getting sunburned? Ohhhh yeah. The point is, look through your wardrobe, man or woman, and look at what neutrals you have, decide how many ways you can wear the items, and decide if you’re actually going to wear them.

 

Once again, my packing list may look different than yours, because it is a Spring semester, student-specific packing list. And not everything on that list applied to me, so I skipped over them. Here we go:

Clothing:

Underwear

  • 27 pairs (a mix between boyshorts, cheeksters, & thongs). You’re probably thinking that’s too much, but you know, as a woman, there will come that time of the month, and let me tell you, a woman is gonna need some variations of underwear. And thongs are great for dresses, leggings, jeans, and anything else where you don’t want panty lines to show.

Socks

  • 4 knee-length/slightly under-the-knee socks
  • 4 crew socks
  • 2 fuzzy socks (I may change it to one pair)
  • 5 pairs of no-show Nike socks
  •  9 (may cut that number down) pairs of everyday socks

I will get into what types of shoes later on, and why I need so many socks–mostly because my feet are always cold.

Undershirts/Bras

  • 5 bras
  • 2 Calvin Klein Bralettes (Black & White–I love to sleep in these, and they are great for lounging around without actually having to put on a bra, but still wanting coverage)
  • 4 different colored bralettes (for those shirts that are thinner, or just to have something underneath)
  • 2 camis (beige and white–can’t go wrong with those two colors, neutrals)

Long Sleeve Shirts

  • 3 three-quarter sleeve shirts (casual and dressy)
  • 8 sweaters (neutral colors, but I have a light minty-pastel color in there as well–something has to make my eyes pop, right?)
  • 4 regular long sleeve shirts
  • 2 button down shirts (white & classier, and one is a red & blue plaid shirt–not neutral, but I need a comfort piece from home that I’ve been wearing since high school. It’s still in style, don’t worry 😉 )

Short Sleeve Shirts

  • 8 short sleeve shirts ( I feel like that is a good number. Plus, not only can I wear those out and about, but I can also wear them around the apartment I’ll be staying in, so they can double as lounge wear)
  • 3 dressy sleeveless tops (this is important for when you’re either going out to dinner, for a night out, or something fancier like a show or something. I am bringing 3 classic colors: Black, off-White, and Wintery Red–thicker material)

Sweatshirts

  • 3 Sweatshirts (If you have met me, you would know that this is a big step for me. When I am not working, in class, or exercising, I live in sweatshirts and sweatpants–will get to that later on. I decided to bring my grey half-zip Curry College pullover–gotta rep Curry of course!, a maroon half-zip pullover from Aeropostale-looks like a VV Shep Shirt, but hella cheaper, and will make me blend in more (weird to say, because I like to stand out in my own style), and a slightly cropped grey graphic sweatshirt that says, “RAD” on the front…I can’t NOT bring that abroad. So stylish)

Jeans/Leggings

  • 2 pairs of jeans (Black and Dark Wash–>my holy grail jeggings since high school, sadly not available at American Eagle anymore, the black ones should be still available there)
  • 2 pairs of leggings (Black, and also from American Eagle)

Shorts?

  • not sure on this one yet

Belts

  • 1 everyday gold belt
  • 1 belt that goes with a specific dress

Dresses/Bodysuits:

  • I don’t really wear skirts, so I left that one out and included a bodysuit
  • 4 dresses (range from casual to dressy)
  • 1 bodysuit

Workout Clothing

  • Although it will be cold at first, and I am not at all a runner, I believe I will be doing a lot of walking, hiking, and maybe some in-apartment exercises
  • 1 Black Nike Pro Compression Shorts (or spandex as I like to call them)
  • 2 sports bras (White & a brighter greenish-blue)
  • 1 short sleeve shirt (white multi tye-dye)
  • 1 tank top (neon pink Curry College Fitness tank)
  • (maybe) 2 pairs of shorts–black Curry College shorts and maybe blue shorts
  • 1 long bootcut yoga pant
  • 1 cropped yoga legging

Pajamas

  • my pajamas are sweats–surprise surprise. I could never comfortably sleep in pajama sets and everything.
  • 1 pair of Black VS Pink sweatpants
  • 2 long sleeve shirts (I am always cold, I can use workout clothes to sleep in as well, and I gotta rep once again Curry, and my home state!)

Coats/Jackets

  • 1 Black North Face rain jacket
  • 1 Abercrombie & Fitch (Fall jacket–I was told I do not need a heavy winter coat even during the winter) Navy jacket
  • 1 Warm Black Longer North Face jacket?
  • 1 Black Nordstrom Moto jacket (a key staple in any wardrobe, but especially in Italy)
  • 1 Beige dressy light jacket? (not sure)

Shoes

  • 2 pairs of Steve Madden Troopa Boots in Black and (maybe) Dark Brown (will use these as rain boots, so I don’t have to bring my huge chunky Hunter Boots–unnecessary for this trip)
  • 1 pair of Sam Edelman riding boots
  • 1 pair of ADIDAS Superstar Gold Stripe sneakers (maybe)
  • 1 pair of Black Nike Air Max Sneakers (comfortable walking)
  • 2 pairs of Steve Madden mini gladiator sandals in Black and Gold Metallic

Gloves/Hats/Scarves

  • 1 pair of Red tech gloves
  • still looking at my beanies
  • still looking at my scarves

Swimsuit/Beach Towel

  • 1 VS Pink Black triangle swimsuit top
  • 1 Black plain swimsuit bottoms
  • 1 Hot Pink pain swimsuit bottoms
  • VS Pink Mint Graphic thin beach towel (better for packing)

Toiletries:

Toothbrush/Toothpaste

  • 1 current toothbrush
  • 1 extra toothbrush just in case
  • 1 tube of Colgate toothpaste

Deodorant

  • 1 Secret Gel Deodorant–travel size (I can buy more overseas)

Feminine Products

  • 1 pack of Always 10-hour protection pads (TMI, but these are my holy grail)
  • 1 pack of tampons (once again, these are items that I can obviously buy more overseas)
  • 1 pack of Always panty liners

Brush/Comb

  • 1 Dry Bar Lemon Drop brush (holy grail brush)
  • 1 black wide toothed comb (out-of-the-shower hair)

Shaving Razor

  • I forgot the brand, it may be Gilette, but just your average shaving razor

Shampoo/Conditioner

  • I put these in travel size smart tubes, which I will get into later on
  • Head & Shoulders Classic Clean 2-in-1 Shampoo + Conditioner (I have been using this since 8th grade…nuff said)
  • Biolage ….forgetting the name….REALLY GOOD though WOW, just purchased it
  • OGX (I think that’s the brand) Coconut Milk Shampoo (also have been using this since high school)
  • OGX Coconut Milk Conditioner
  • Morocco (at ULTA) Conditioner

Body Wash/Body Lotion

  • B&BW Watermelon Lemonade Shower Gel
  • Soap & Glory Orangeasm body wash (boy does that smell AMAZING)
  • B&BW Hello Beautiful body lotion
  • FabFitFun Sicilian Tangerine Body cream

Perfumes/Body Mists

  • 1 Travel Size of Ralph Lauren Midnight Romance perfume
  • 2 Travel Sizes of VS Night body mists

Makeup/Skincare

  • I am going to write all of that in a separate post because even though I have travel-sized products, and I am not bringing my entire makeup collection, and there is still a good amount of products

Hair Accessories

  • 10 hair ties
  • 5 bobby pins (I don’t use these, but you never know)
  • 1 dressy headband

Nail polish/Nail Clippers

  • about 1 or two nail polish colors
  • nail accessory travel size set

Vitamins/Powder

  • D3 vitamins
  • B12 vitamins
  • Patriot Green Powder (my holy grail for about a week, actually gives me natural energy–something I don’t normally have)

Extras:

Purse/Wallets

  • 2-3 wallets (range from RFID blocked, casual, & fancy)
  • 1 White & Gold quilted chain crossbody clutch (Thanks Gabby!)
  • I am not a purse/pocketbook kind of person, but I found this great, spacious pocketbook that looks like a fancy handbag, but it’s actually from The Container Store! They have a huge travel sale during the summer, so mine was about $99 at the time instead of a little over $100. I got it so I can safely put my camera inside of it when traveling! Unfortunately, it is not RFID blocked

Important Documents

  • I won’t go into detail about these
  • Passport
  • more essentials, I think everyone knows what types of important documents to bring with you

Sunglasses

  • 1 pair of cheap Black plastic sunglasses from Nordstrom BP
  • possibly 1 pair of aviators of American Eagle

Technology/Chargers

  • Apple MacBook Pro 13-in with Retina Display
  • 2 Apple MacBook Pro chargers (1 for backup)
  • 1 Pink Vera Bradley laptop case (suitable for as high as a MacBook Pro 15-in)
  • Apple iPhone 5s of course…don’t ever forget your phone
  • 2 Pac2Go Universal Travel Adapter with dual 2.5A USB charging
  • Hero 5 Session GoPro – USB charger, 64 GB SD card
  • BlackPro GoPro accessory bundle
  • iPhone 5s charger
  • PlugBug World 2-in-1 universal plugs for Apple MacBooks & USB port
  • Sony Alpha a58 DSLR camera with carrying case, charger, and SD card
  • maybe my tripod – I feel like I should, but I know it will take up so much room
  • Apple earphones

Bath Towels

  • I am bringing this velcro strapless towel from Target. Less chunky than a bath towel, smaller, and I also have that beach towel I could use if I needed it

Journal

  • 1 personal journal

Backpack

  • 1 SwissArmy backpack

Suitcase(s)–Duh

  • 1 Large Blue Samsonite Suitcase
  • 1 carry-on suitcase

Travel Guide/Map

  • AAA Italian Dictionary
  • AAA Florence travel guide book

Addresses of friends & family for postcards

  • will get those later

 

There are some items, more in the extras category that I will be talking about in my Travel Essentials post. There are also items in here that I didn’t list at all because they will be mentioned in my next post. I hope that this packing list helped you whatever traveling situation you are in, whether you are a student, family, a solo traveler, photographer, etc.

See you in my next post!

 

xx   Jordan