Now there is no doubt that Florence is one of the most magical cities that I have ever set foot in in my entire life. The buildings, the lights, the atmosphere… everything is completely and utterly mind blowing. One day in this city, and it will have you under its spell; I promise you.
But this is not the only reason I’ve found this city magical. For those of you that don’t know, I am the biggest Harry Potter fan to walk the earth, and I have found some shocking similarities in my daily life to the wizarding world of Harry Potter – some of them good… some of them not so much. So I’ve decide to let my Harry Potter freak flag fly and enlighten you guys to some of my magical housing woes and spell-binding daily experiences I’ve had while giving you some study abroad tips along the way!
I don’t know about you, but whenever I have good news/bad news situations, I never know what to tell first… so I’m just going to start with my daily observations that I found freakily similar to my movie-watching experience.
First of all, transportation. Now I’m obviously not talking about brooms, but the experiences I’ve had with trains and buses have made me feel like I’ve been dumped directly into a Harry Potter movie. I mean, anytime I get on a train, I feel like I’m on the Hogwarts Express and patiently wait for the trolley to come around to I can get some chocolate frogs or every flavor beans or something, but being on a train in Europe just magnifies this feeling tenfold. Which is AWESOME. I love trains. I also have to take the bus every day to get to work. The majority of my bus riding experiences have been normal, but the other night I was riding the bus home alone, and I swear to you, I was on the Knight Bus. My bus driver was crazy driving through the streets of Florence. I was getting thrown all around the bus; we were squeezing between cars and into spaces that I did NOT think were possible, and we literally almost hit an old lady crossing the street. All this bus needed was a shrunken head as a mirror decoration, and I would have been convinced.
The second similarity happened to me on my first day of class. I walked into my first class ever in Florence and immediately was addressed by my own personal version of Professor McGonagall. My professor is from Scotland… she’s got a sick accent and is totally cool and I expect her to turn into a cat whenever I’m sitting in class. Her class is pretty cool as it is, but as I sit there every Tuesday, I can’t help but picture her, all of a sudden, transfiguring my backpack into a toucan with the wave of her hand. (Seriously, this is what I think of on a daily basis.)
My last observation is that of sporting events. Yesterday there was a Fiorentina soccer match in Florence, and as seas of purple (the team color) washed over us at the bus stop, I couldn’t help but think of the Quidditch World Cup. Everyone walking around the city had crazy purple face paint, scarves, flags, banners… you name it! I will definitely have to make it to a match during my time here… even if it’s just to make sure it’s not actually a Quidditch match like I’m convinced it is.
Okay, so now that you’ve been enlightened to my crazy Harry Potter daily musings, I’ve got my magical housing woes for you. I’m sure you’ve all been warned about the differences you’ll encounter when living and studying abroad… difference in water pressure, not having hot water, expensive electricity, blah, blah, blah. We all got that information, and while incredibly accurate, we all don’t believe it until it happens to us. (Isn’t that life?) So here are some personal stories that had me screaming out imaginary spells and wishing I was a wizard.
1. Upon arriving in Florence, the first thing I noticed in our apartment was that we had one mirror. One. For four girls. AND it was in the bathroom, so if someone was showering and we needed the mirror we were shit out of luck. This always made me think of the Mirror of Erised in the first movie… you know, you look into it and it shows you what you desire?? Well we desire more mirrors. So if you happen to have the same problem as me, there is a free shuttle to Ikea on Saturdays and Sundays! Check out the shuttle here …Otherwise you’ll have to steal one out of your building hallway like I did. Shhh.
2. The first thing we were told at orientation was basically: don’t have your family send you any packages. Especially anything of value. Over here getting packages is a hassle. First of all, it has to get through customs and anything worth anything usually doesn’t make it. Awesome. Then if it does get through customs and it gets delivered to your apartment and you’re not home, it gets sent back to customs. Double awesome. And if it gets sent back to customs you have to go pick it up yourself AND pay an extra amount of money to receive your package. Splendid. So basically customs is the Uncle Vernon of the Italian world… they will do just about anything to make sure you’re not getting your Hogwarts letter kids. Accept it.
3. Yes, we’ve all been told Italian electricity in the student apartments can be sketchy: don’t run more than one appliance at the same time, don’t leave your lights on if you don’t have to, yeah yeah yeah. What they don’t tell you about, is that occasionally your power goes out for absolutely no reason, and its not just your apartment, but your entire side of the city. While this doesn’t happen very often, it will probably happen at least once while you are studying abroad. When its dark out and the entire city is thrown into “extreme” darkness, the only thing my roommate and I could think to do was shout, “LUMOS!!” at the top of our lungs and hope that the power would grace us with its presence. Much to our surprise, that didn’t work. So my advice is to bring something with you that can keep you occupied if you don’t have any electricity… we survived the outage with good company and a box of cereal.
4. We’ve also been told about Italian water in student apartments – you know, the pressure is bad, it doesn’t stay hot very long… all that good stuff. Again, no one mentioned to me that sometimes the water just stops. Like I said earlier, this doesn’t happen very often, but you’re likely to encounter it at least once in the crappy apartments you get as a student. Like you turn on the faucets and nothing comes out… the water just disappears, *poof!* into thin air. Nothing is worse than when you realize you can’t cook, do dishes, brush your teeth, shower, or flush the toilet anymore. This little mishap had my roommate and I screaming “Aguamenti!” at the top of our lungs… again, to no response. My advice in this situation is never ending… first, make sure you have snacks to eat that don’t need any preparation (like boiling water, for example). There’s nothing worse than being hungry and not being able to cook. Secondly, always have a water bottle stashed in your refrigerator. You get this overwhelming urge to drink water once you know you have no access to water. Trust me, you’ll appreciate this. Finally, make sure to pack some dry shampoo… you never know when you wont be able to shower.
5. Finally, we’ve all been warned about the Italian internet… and yes, it is very, very touchy. We’ve discovered that the router in our apartment hates rain, which is really unfortunate since it rains all the time during Florentine winters. Not cool. Last week it rained for the entire week so our internet was very temperamental every day, but the storm we had on the weekend was a doozy. It left us stranded without an internet connection for just about 34 hours. Now I’m obviously incredibly dependent on the internet for my happiness (social media intern, blogger, avid online movie/television watcher), and when your happiness is dependent on the temperamental Florentine weather, the outlook for your sanity is not so good. This is where Harry Potter saved our lives. We utilized our overabundance of free time that weekend to watch the entire Harry Potter series from start to finish, which is where the inspiration for this nerd post was born. My tip to you: if you are planning on studying here, be sure to bring some movies for a rainy day (or days.) Otherwise you might lose your mind.
Now I’ve been told that all this magical housing woes are not typical of the standard Italian lifestyle… just the lovely apartments study abroad students get stuck in. If you really want to ensure you have a perfect place to live, make sure you talk to your program or your landlord in advanced to make sure everything is in working order all of the time. Otherwise if you want to make sure you live in a picture perfect setting during your time in Florence, you can also talk to Sara, (our accommodation specialist! firstname.lastname@example.org) and she can set you up with an amazing apartment! Just check out apartmentsinflorence.net.
So basically, I’m living in a magical world, with magical problems, with no magical solutions… But if you follow my tips, you should be good to go!