Start with the previous installment of “Reasons We Become an Expat – Work”.
You might sometimes feel that there has to be more to life than what you are living. Your life may appear completely fine where you are, but maybe you sense that something is missing or that it might be interesting to live in another place. You might not know much about the place or even its language, but your desire to live there and explore it is great. A satisfying part of the adventure is just diving in; however, we always know that if we fail we can just return home where we already are.
The first time I went to Florence, I was in search of an adventure. I was enjoying my life in England, but felt that something was missing. I didn’t want to go back to France, where I had lived for six years prior to living in England because I felt it would be too easy and I needed to be challenged. Since I had always dreamed of learning Italian, I decided to go to Florence for three months. I signed up for Italian classes and rented a room from an Italian family. I packed up a few of my things, left many boxes in storage, gave all my clients to a colleague, and hopped on a train (actually three trains) for Florence.
It wasn’t until I was lying in bed that first night that it dawned on me that not only did I not know the language, but I also didn’t know anyone. I wasn’t scared, but I did feel a bit lost. I didn’t meet anyone in my Italian class, but I did befriend a couple of the Italian teachers who were more my age.
On my third day of being Florence, I was strolling the streets by myself and entered a church that I spotted on a side street. I sat down on a wooden pew and felt a wave of peace come over me. The words, “You are home,” circled in my head. It was the first time I felt as if all the pieces of my personal puzzle had landed perfectly in place.
I was determined to stay in Florence even though I didn’t have a permit and didn’t speak much Italian. I knew things would fall into place, and fortunately for me they did. I found an apartment to share with an Italian student and landed a job teaching English before the end of my first month there. I ended up staying in Florence for two years and only left because of a family emergency in the US.
For me, this expat experience was the most rewarding because I was able to create a life for myself from absolutely nothing: no job, no housing, no friends, and a limited knowledge of Italian. In the time I was there, I became fluent in Italian, discovered more about Florence, and met many locals (with whom I am still friends today).
Melinda Gallo is a blogger, writer, and runner, living in Florence, Italy and Paris, France. She is currently working on a book for expats. Watch for her posts on http://blog.melindagallo.com .