As I sit on my comfy couch in my home in Columbia, South Carolina, I can’t help but think back about my time abroad in Florence, Italy. As cliche as it sounds, this experience genuinely changed my life. I would like to consider myself a well traveled individual so my choice to take the semester abroad in Italy was about so much more than just getting away from home for a little while. I don’t think I can exactly pinpoint one exact thing about being in Florence that was the sort of turning point or eureka moment realizing that I loved being abroad. Sure, the food was devine and the Tuscan wines could warm the soul of anyone around, but I feel like my time abroad was so much more than that. My experience in Florence allowed for me to fall in love with every nook and cranny the city had. I am going to spend this blog post breaking down some of the exceptional things I did with the incredible people I did them with.
I’ll start this off with my experiences brought about by travel. I made the choice to keep all of my travel within the borders of Italy. My travels went from the Amalfi coast all the way up to Turin in my short time abroad. The rest of the places in between include Rome, Milan, Como, Bologna, Pisa, Lucca, Cinque Terre, Venice, and Milan. Each place holds a special place in my heart for one reason or another. Whether it was my solo interaction with the locals in Pisa and Lucca or the memories I made with my newfound classmates turned friends in Milan, Cinque Terre and Como; each place holds vivid memories that can be brought back at nothing more than a mention of the name. The food, the people, the shopping, and the memories will always live on in my heart while I am back home.
Within the city walls of Florence I did just as much. My roommates and I befriended restaurant owners and staff, bar owners, and local shop owners very early on and that made our nights spent in the city so special. The experiences within the city like the museums, sights, and school run activities kept me both busy and extraordinarily content with the passing of each day. One of my favorite things to do was go to the ACF Fiorentina matches. I had been a fan for years before but the opportunity to catch a fixture at the historic stadium was something special. A very awesome thing that SAI offices offer in their cities are a little thing called Viva experiences. These filled the hole in my nights or days where I was just itching to do something new. These opportunities allowed me to create my own leather wallet, learn how to make pizza and learn how to chef up some local cuisine. For any student looking to meet people or have an experience with others, the Viva Experiences are the best way to do so. If that is not your speed then throw on some shoes and take a walk through the old and narrow streets. I found myself getting lost and falling in love with something new almost every day. It is funny, I had visited Florence two times prior to my full semester yet there always seemed to be something new for me to try. I even have a list of some things I did not have the opportunity to try which seems crazy, but I promise it is far too real.
Overall my experience studying abroad was focused more on meeting the locals, meeting new friends and living like a true Florentine. In my mind, I feel as if I achieved that goal. That being said, there are still far more places for me to visit in Florence and even more places in Italy I have yet to traverse. I guess that means I have to go back someday soon, and I will take the prospect of that any day of the week.
Written by: Brett, Spring 2023 Florence student, from University of South Carolina