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Natalia Palacino Camargo

(Staff Illustration by Natalia Palacino Camargo)

Amore abroad

Students at NYU’s Florence campus share their stories of dating while studying away.

Feb 14, 2022

If the candy aisle at CVS Pharmacy isn’t an obvious hint, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. For students attending NYU’s Florence study-away site, this corner may be a long walk down the block, or via, as the Italians call it. 

Across the world, love tiptoes through the villas of Italy as people prepare for La Festa di San Valentino. With its rustic pastel buildings and sun-bathed hills, Florence is a city of romance. On campus, relationships have already begun to flourish in this beautiful city. 

Paula Dammert Dueñas, an LS first-year from New York City, is in an on-campus relationship with her boyfriend, Martin Braverman. The two began to talk over social media in December after being accepted through early decision and finally met in person the Saturday before move-in day at NYU Florence. Since arriving in Italy, they’ve spent a lot of their time exploring together. The two enjoy walking around the city, having a cup of coffee in front of the Duomo and attending Florentine soccer matches. Before meeting Braverman in Florence, Dammert Dueñas admitted that she strongly disliked Valentine’s Day, but she sings a different tune now that she’s been struck by Cupid’s arrow. 

“I hated it! But I now see it as a chance to have a fun time this year with Martin,” Dammert Dueñas said. “We plan to take a trip to Verona, also known as the home of Romeo and Juliet.” 

When asked for her advice, Dammert Dueñas said, “In long-distance or even on-campus [relationships], communication is important. That sounds corny. I never thought I’d say that. I hated long-distance.” 

Dammert Dueñas and Braverman’s relationship is just one of the many that have blossomed on the campus grounds. There seems to be love everywhere, between students and even beyond. Many students have gone on dates with Italians in town and are fascinated by the differences they find between American and Italian dating culture. For instance, Italians are very affectionate, even during first meetings. While Americans might be startled if someone leans in for a kiss on the cheek on the first date, it’s just customary to Italians. 

Some students participating in study away have chosen to date within the NYU community, whereas others have ventured out to the city where they’ve learned about Italian culture, language and even barriers between the two groups. Dates in Italy are magical, and going with a native from the city allows for visitors to have a real European experience with someone who knows the best restaurants, events and shops. 

Savannah Garza, a first-year LS student who has dated locals in Florence, shared some characteristics she noticed. 

“Italians enjoy intimacy,” Garza said. “They don’t really enjoy going to bars for dates as Americans do in the United States. It’s typical for an Italian to take you to a park or a piazza to enjoy a glass of wine or an aperitivo.”

Garza, like many others who have gone on dates with Florentines, had met a local on a dating app. After some texting and calling, the two decided to meet in Piazza della Libertà. First, they went to a cafe and enjoyed an intimate cup of coffee while they got to know each other. Later, they grabbed some aperitivo to-go and took a romantic stroll in the park where they watched the sunset.

“We talked about university life and how I’m always busy doing homework,” Garza said. “He was surprised. He told me [that] at an Italian university, they don’t get any homework — they just study asynchronously for their midterms and finals.”

Meeting people our age in other countries is a learning experience as we are exposed to different backgrounds and lifestyles. Exhilarating experiences can come out of dating locals in another country, such as learning a new language and trying new foods. As students, those are two things we look forward to when studying abroad. Practicing Italian becomes second nature when meeting locals — strong competition for Duolingo. Another perk is finding the best authentic restaurants. As guests in the country, we can be dragged into familiar food chains and stereotypical tourist eateries.  It isn’t until we explore and try new things that we adapt and merge with the culture — an opportunity that dating affords us. 

 As young adults in college, we are constantly learning about ourselves and exploring what we want out of life, including romantic relationships. Valentine’s Day for study abroad students is truly special this year because it will be celebrated in so many different ways. Whether it’s a candlelight dinner over FaceTime with a loved one back in your hometown or a gondola ride in the canals of Venice, romance is in the air for everyone. Although the pandemic has altered the way in which we celebrate holidays, the community at NYU has learned how to create magic and good memories out of the cards we were dealt.  

Contact Mellak Abduelal at [email protected].

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