Interview with a Gap Student
Catherine, Fall 2020 - Spring 2021
February 11, 2021

Catherine is completing an Academic Career Gap Year with SAI Programs at Florence University of the Arts in Florence, Fall 2020 – Spring 2021.  

Photo of Catherine in Florence, Fall 2020

What motivated you to pursue an academic career program abroad during the pandemic?

Given the current situation, and not really knowing what I wanted to do next, a gap year seemed like the best option for me. I really wanted to go abroad. I had been abroad during the pandemic and was brought home, but really wanted to get back because I have a passion for traveling.

Did you always know that you wanted to do a gap year?

I wanted to do as long a program as I could!

What attracted you to SAI’s program in Florence?

I was browsing the SAI social medias, and the program options seemed really cool and fun. There were a lot of great traveling options. I wanted to do something with fashion and SAI offered this fashion certificate program. It was very intriguing and fun to me.

What has been the highlight of your time so far in Florence?

A few highlights from my time in Florence so far have been meeting my friends and feeling artistically inspired. In my group of friends, we help lift each other up and do a lot together. Creatively, I’ve found new aesthetics and styles, and have had the opportunity to explore the fashion community. For example, the locals in Santo Spirito have a totally different style than the people in Piazza della Repubblica.

How have you benefitted from your time in Florence?

I have faced some of my fears during my time in Florence. I am anxious, and living alone was a fear of mine. However, now I feel way more capable and independent. I go places on my own all the time and am way better at managing my time. I feel like I’ve matured a lot too. I feel a lot more grateful and appreciate things more.

I noticed these changes when I went home at the holidays. It was a totally different dynamic than normal. I spent a lot of quality time with family, and felt closer to people back home because I’ve been gone for so long. It felt good to reconnect and bond.

Photo of Catherine in Florence, Fall 2020

Was it worth it doing this experience during the pandemic?

I don’t regret coming during the pandemic at all. I am so much more present and have done lots of exploring in Florence. I could never get sick of “just being in Florence.” I’ve learned and grown a lot. This experience has been beneficial in so many ways.

Was Florence always your top choice?

I had a few top choices and did some research. I decided I ultimately really wanted to come to Florence.

Did you have any challenges during your time so far in Florence?

The lockdown and red zone mandates were tough; however, having friends and my support system back home was really helpful during that time. Balancing school, social life and sleep can be hard, but I realized the thing that helped me the most was self care – vitamins, meditating – just little extra things to care for myself.

Why should other students consider a gap semester abroad? What advice would you give to future gap students?

I think everybody should do a gap year abroad! You learn so much about yourself. I think it’s important to try things you’ve never tried before, and studying abroad is a good way to “get cultured” and learn about other people’s culture. It is just so much fun to go to a new place, try new foods and meet new people. You have so many opportunities that you don’t have at home, and can make lifelong friends during your experience.

My advice to future gap students would be to always show your gratitude. Thank people, and respect them and their environments. If you are in someone’s home or restaurant, respect them and their culture, and alway practice kindness. Also, remember that it is important to embrace differences in cultures because it is all part of the experience.

What are you looking forward to this semester?

I plan on staying in Florence and getting a degree here. I want to expand my career in fashion. There is potential of a student coming here and never wanting to leave – I knew that within the first few weeks!

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Catherine! 

Questions? Let’s chat!

Our Admissions Team is available during business hours on LiveChat. You can also reach us by emailing admissions@saiprograms.com or booking a call.

Ready to apply? We are now accepting applications for Fall 2021 Gap Semester programs!

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About SAI

SAI is dedicated to providing academic and cultural learning experiences abroad that enhance global awareness, professional development and social responsibility. We concentrate our programs in Europe, with a focus on in-depth learning of individual European countries and their unique global role in the geopolitical economy, humanities, and in the arts.