What does your study abroad experience mean to you?
Traveling has always been a passion of mine. Growing up I had the opportunity to travel all over the U.S. and even to a few other countries with my family. Making the decision to study abroad during my collegiate years was easy, or so I thought. As the departure date came closer and closer, I started to realize that I was going to be 3,000 miles from home completely alone. It was definitely nerve racking, but the experience was completely worth it. Since studying abroad, I have become a more confident and independent person. Living on my own in a new country pushed me completely out of my comfort zone but allowed me to discover more of who I am as an individual. Personal growth is extremely important and studying abroad the chance to learn valuable lessons I could not learn any other way.
What was your favorite class abroad and why?
While abroad, I had an early class (okay, it was at 9 a.m.) but my favorite part of my day was always walking to that class. The streets were quiet with just a few locals heading to work and all the people setting up their carts and shops for the day. This time always made me think of how amazing and Florence is. During the day Ponte Vecchio is nearly impossible to navigate and filled with tourists but at 8 a.m. it is empty. Admiring places that are normally filled with people was always my favorite part of the day because I got to enjoy the peacefulness of the city with the locals.
My other class was a food, culture, and community class. The teacher was a typical Italian grandmother: strong-willed and stubborn but loving. Every Tuesday she would lead our class around Florence showing us all of her favorite places from grocery stores and supermarkets to tiny food stands. Hearing her talk about her appreciation for Italian food and culture is something I will never forget. The second class was definitely my favorite and one of the best and most unique way to learn about Florence.
What was your favorite thing to do in your host city?
Growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, I never really got the chance to experience life in a big city. The first day in Florence I thought it was huge. As time passed, I realized how small it is! Nothing in Florence took me more than 25 minutes to walk to. Everything was in walking distance which made walking around the city my favorite part of studying abroad in Florence.
Everywhere you look there is art, history, or something to do. From the busiest of streets to the smallest alleyways, everything you see in Florence is beautiful. Stopping to admire street art was something I did frequently and even if I couldn’t understand it was fascinating to think about how it got there. You never know what you might find on a hidden road!
What advice do you have for new study abroad students?
Do not overpack! If you don’t absolutely need it then don’t bring it! You can buy anything you want and more wherever you are studying. Plus, you will have to pay at least 100 euros if your bag is too heavy on the way home.
Travel as much as possible. Seriously, you can only be 20 traveling abroad once (or twice). Take advantage of how cheap and easy traveling around Europe is and how many cool places you’re close to. Be careful of pickpockets because you never think it could happen to you until it does. Finally, have fun! This is a once in a lifetime experience and a great way to meet new people and immerse yourself into a new culture!
Kate is a summer 2019 Florence student from University of South Carolina.