Here's my story: It was my third month living in Florence, Italy and I thought I pretty much knew it all about Florentine culture and everything it entailed (looking back...I was a bit naive). I acted as if I had lived there for years and, in the process, was probably acting more like a tourist than a temporary resident.
One day, after class, I met up with a good Italian friend who took me to a small sandwich stand near the San Lorenzo market. I glanced at the menu and, because I didn't recognize anything, I decided to wait until later to grab my usual at a panino shop just a few blocks away. My friend would have none of this. He promptly ordered me the same thing he had ordered for himself. I had no idea what it was, but let me tell you; it did not look pretty. I demanded to know what substance I was about to ingest. My friend politely refused to tell me. I politely wanted to kick him for being so smug. He sat there enjoying his sandwich as I sat there growing increasingly hungry and curious.
After a few hours of deep consternation (okay, maybe it was two minutes of debating the pros and cons of food poisoning) I just took a leap of faith and took a bite. My friend watched eagerly, waiting for my reaction. I chewed. I chewed some more. Finally, I swallowed the mystery substance. My friend finally spoke up. "Well, what do you think?"
Now, this is the part where I'm supposed to tell you I loved it. That it was the most unbelievable thing I had ever tried. That it was life changing. Well, I'm sorry to tell you, but it was absolutely disgusting. I made an extremely mature face, expressing my dislike for what I'm sure is a favorite delicacy of many Italians, and made a dramatic scene worthy of an Oscar. My friend was laughing (even snorting) so hard I think he shed a few trendy European tears. At first I was annoyed. Five seconds later, I realized that it actually was, pretty funny. Before long, we were laughing hysterically together in the middle of the San Lorenzo market, with street vendors and tourists watching us (and probably debating whether or not to call the carabinieri).
To put it simply: Trying something new doesn't always guarantee a good experience - but it always at least guarantees an experience in some form. Isn't that the reason we travel? Don't we travel to do just that - to simply experience life? So I urge you, fellow study-abroad-ers - don't settle only for what you know will be a pleasurable experience - seek the unknown and make the most out of your travels. Even if an experience totally sucks, you' can still say you DID it. Plus, you'll also have a story that will most likely, if anything, get a few good laughs. Maybe even a snort or two. And that alone, will be worth it.
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Until next time,