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Ca’ Foscari University, Italy

It’s been just over three weeks since I arrived, and I’m still amazed to be here every day. Venice is possibly the most extraordinary city I’ve ever seen. You know when you google a place and look at the photos and think that there’s no way it actually looks that lovely, it must be a trick of the photography trade? That’s how I felt seeing pictures of Venice, except it really does look like that. Life here, though different in some ways, has many similarities to life in Australia. So far I feel like the most alienating experiences I’ve had come from my lack of Italian skills (you don’t realise how little you know until you’re in the grocery store trying to differentiate between body wash and conditioner). Some shops close for lunch, and a lot are closed on Sundays. The garbage system on the island is very different from Australia’s because there are no cars, and therefore no garbage trucks. Every morning (except Sundays), garbage collectors come on foot with carts and you have to hand it to them individually. I am not super proud to admit that I’ve ended up chasing them down the street in my pyjamas more than I would care to, so be prepared for that humbling experience if you choose to live on the island.

Arriving was honestly easier than I expected. From Marco Polo Airport (where I landed) I just caught the water bus, or ‘vaporetto’, to the wharf closest to my flat on the island. There are no cars, trains, or bicycles on the island, with the exception of a bus depot at the end of the bridge connecting the mainland to the island. Everywhere you go on the island, you walk (on the right hand side of the path instead of the left) or catch a boat. Houses don’t have specific street addresses like they do at home, it is more common that people just list the neighbourhood, number, and postcode. Sometimes Google Maps likes this more than others, so it can be helpful to pinpoint a nearby landmark and get directions to there if the address doesn’t pop up as an option. I’m still figuring out how this works vis a vis ordering things online and having them delivered, but I’d like to figure it out because shipping to Italy is often much cheaper than Australia. One of the best things to do when you’re new in the city is to just go out and get lost, it really is beautiful and every street is worth a look.

The most important thing to do to manage culture shock and settle in is to make sure you’re taking advantage of all the help you are offered. When you don’t know where the grocery store is, ask your landlord. When you forget your hairbrush, beg one off your roommate until you can ask your university buddy where to buy one. Call your mom. Ask for help. It’s okay. Adjusting to life in a new place is scary as hell, and there’s no medal for making it harder on yourself by trying to do everything alone.

Ciara Seccombe
Bachelor of Global Studies
Ca’ Foscari University
Italy

For more information about the UTS Global Exchange program please visit: www.global-exchange.uts.edu.au

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