Sinclair is completing an Academic Career Gap Year with SAI Programs at Florence University of the Arts in Florence, Fall 2020 – Spring 2021.
What motivated you to pursue an academic career program abroad during the pandemic?
I took the opportunity to come to Florence during the pandemic because I wouldn’t have been able to have in-person classes in the US. FUA is able to hold small class sessions, so I wanted to take advantage of this unique experience and make the most out of it.
Did you always know that you wanted to do a gap year?
I was not originally planning on a gap year, but things obviously changed a lot in the last year. I figured it was important to go as far as I could with any opportunity I had. I realized this might be the only chance I have to do the coolest thing I could possibly do – live in Florence.
I chose to do the year-long program because I wanted the city to become my second home. I wanted to learn about the people and place, and felt that I would receive more of an in-depth experience staying for a year. I wanted to fully embrace the experience.
What attracted you to SAI’s program in Florence?
FUA’s campus is great – small and quaint, and the community is very close-knit. I’ve really gotten to know all the people involved, from my Admissions Counselor to SAI’s on-site staff in Florence. The process can be really overwhelming, so I was excited to have a whole team of people helping me to make it possible. There is always someone in the SAI Florence office to help us figure out any issues or obstacles we might have.
What has been the highlight of your time so far in Florence?
The highlight of my time so far has been visiting Fiesole, up the hill from Florence, and being able to overlook the city. It helps me to take a step back and put things in perspective. Soaking in that view fills me with gratitude for this experience.
How have you benefitted from your time in Florence?
I already feel so different. I am 100% a different person from when I arrived. Being so far removed from my comfort zone, people I know and the environment I’m used to, has pushed me to learn a lot about myself. I’ve developed strategies and coping mechanisms for things I wasn’t forced to face at home. I have grown immensely as a person, and am excited to see how it feels when I get back home.
Was it worth it doing this experience during the pandemic?
In my opinion, there is nowhere better to be than Florence for a young student. In terms of where I’m at in my life, Florence is a perfect fit as it is so much quieter and more accessible than many cities in the US. I can walk around comfortably and it is significantly less crowded. It has been really special to see this whole city come together during the pandemic…however, I am excited to return in post-pandemic times!
Was Florence always your top choice?
Yes, I didn’t apply anywhere else. I knew I wanted to go to Florence. Something felt right about this city. It is a really special place to be.
Did you have any challenges during your time so far in Florence?
My biggest challenge has been the amounts of free time, although there is a lot to do in Florence even during the pandemic. I’ve just had to work at staying on top of everything and filling my free time.
Why should other students consider a gap semester abroad? What advice would you give to future gap students?
I believe everyone should spend a semester or year living in another country. It has been very humbling. I think a lot of times people get caught up in our own bubbles or comfort zones. By studying abroad, you experience culture firsthand. It is one thing to read books and watch movies about a city, but it doesn’t truly come to life until you live there yourself. Florence is a lively and dynamic city, and it has been a wonderful experience living here thus far.
My advice to future students would be to explore – constantly! There is always something to do. Try and find the unique and authentic experiences. Go down the rabbit hole of discovery in your city! Especially in Florence…there is so much to see and I feel like I haven’t even started.
Advice to students nervous about studying abroad in the pandemic?
There are a lot of health and safety measures in place, especially in the schools. The schools are doing an amazing job by keeping the class sizes down. In this way, FUA, for example, has been able to continue holding classes whereas in the US, this is not an option in many places. It has been a unique schooling experience, as everyone is extremely close (not physically!) to each other. All of our teachers know us individually and it feels like everyone is looking out for one another. It is a really incredible time to be at a school that is doing well and being responsible.
What are you looking forward to this semester?
I’m looking forward to (hopefully!) the regulations rolling back – and getting to the beach! A very simple, exciting goal of mine. I definitely want to return to Florence after my program ends. I love it here, so we’ll see in what capacity I return!
Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Sinclair!
Questions? Let’s chat!
Ready to apply? We are now accepting applications for Fall 2021 Gap Semester programs!