In the 14th century, Pope Benedict XI was on a mission. Looking for an artist to commission paintings for St. Peter’s Basilica, Benedict found himself in the “Jewel of the Renaissance,” Florence, Italy, where he encountered the immense talent of the painter Giotto. After requesting a sample of the artist’s work, the Pope received an unexpected submission: a perfectly round hand-drawn circle. It was extraordinarily simple, yet it was absolute perfection.
There is no comparison of artistic skill between Giotto and myself. I can neither paint nor sketch; I can’t even draw a straight line.
There is, however, a strong connection between us: a firm confidence in our talents and willingness to prove it. Drawing a perfect circle unaided is no simple task, but rather one that requires significant practice. Unlike Giotto, I have no masterpieces to prove my skills, but I am willing to put in the extra effort to become a master of some craft.
My academic passions in life are based in the arts of politics and writing. Longing to be in a place surrounded by people with similar passions and interests, I knew that Georgetown University was the school for me. After completing three semesters on the Hilltop, I am anxious to explore other areas of the world that exhibit the same fervor for culture, history and politics like D.C. Looking to Giotto, I have found it in Florence.
Just two weeks ago, I arrived in Italy to study in the small Florentine town of Fiesole at Georgetown’s Villa Le Balze. Like Washington, Florence is a city of pure allure and majesty, with a rich history and enthralling atmosphere. In the short time that I have been here I have already explored the Uffizi Museum, which showcases renowned artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. I have also shopped along the Ponte Vecchio and in the open-air markets, and I have fully embraced the Italian style of eating by enjoying multi-course meals.
While I am willing to let my guard down when it comes to my diet, I quickly realized that I must be more cautious about my public behavior. As an American — and especially as a female — I stick out like a sore thumb and, therefore, am an easy target for pickpockets and the opposite sex. I have realized that excessive smiling in Italy is perceived as an invitation to the men, so I’ve found it is better to appear occupied and enthralled with the surroundings than overly friendly.
But this has by no means deterred me from interacting with the locals. Rather than rooming at the Villa, I am living with a local family for the semester. Because of this decision, I am forced to practice my four years of Italian. Whether in my homestay or in the city, communicating in Italian is essential because it is the most efficient way to make my needs and ideas clear. It certainly was not easy to tell my host mother that the bathroom door had fallen off the hinges — but with lots of repetition and hand gestures, the problem was solved.
Regardless of feeling lost in translation, I am excited for all the adventures to come. With four months ahead of me to immerse myself in Italian living, I foresee a semester abroad as the perfect opportunity for me to become well rounded — just like Giotto’s circle.