SAI caught up with SAI Ambassador Arianna, who answered some questions about her time in Florence.
What was your favorite thing to do in your host city?
I studied in Florence, Italy and there were so many things that I loved to do it’s hard to choose one. However, the first one that came to my mind after reading this question was simply walking around. Florence is so rich with culture, art, and history, everywhere you look has a story or looks like a postcard. It was just so surreal that I was walking through this magical city that had been around for thousands of years. There was also so much to see, you never got bored. I would stumble upon live music on Ponte Vecchio, watch artists painting in the streets, or eat gelato while walking by palaces. I would have to pinch myself to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming. Florence was my absolute favorite city that I’ve been to in Europe.
Do you have any tips for learning the language while students are abroad?
The biggest tip for learning the native language that I found to be useful is to just force yourself to converse with locals in the language, even if they respond in English. In Florence, locals were able to tell just by looking at you if you were American and would start speaking English to you. Or, even if you tried to speak Italian they would speak English back to you because they were excited to practice their English. So, to learn the language, you definitely have to just keep speaking Italian, even if they speak English to you. You will get more comfortable the more you practice and try to speak it. Another good tip is to people watch in piazzas and listen to what people are saying, seeing if you can understand it. Language apps are also really helpful, like Duolingo.
What travel tips would you give someone studying abroad?
There are two major tips every study abroad student should know when traveling abroad. The first one is planning trips. Plan trips as soon as you can! Get a good group of people together and just plan as many trips as you want or can. The longer you wait, the more expensive it gets. This prevented me from traveling for most of November. So, the earlier you plan your trips the more you can go on. The second helpful tip is to be mindful of carry-on bags when traveling for the weekend by plane. Most European airlines are extremely strict about carry-on weight. A personal bag plus a carry-on bag have to be under 10 kg combined, which is very difficult, and they will make you pay to check it. So, I got a large travel backpack to travel with and it worked perfectly because it fit everything and stayed under 10 kg because I didn’t need a personal item as well. Investing in a luggage weigher will save you a lot of money too, especially when you are packing to go back home. One friend of mine had to pay 500 euros for her bags when we went home. Just be mindful of weight!
Arianna was a fall 2018 SAI Florence student from Saint Mary’s College of California.