My First Week Abroad with SAI
Gina, Spring 2023, Florence
January 31, 2023

When I decided to study abroad in Florence, I was honestly very nervous about how I would adjust to such a new lifestyle. One of the things that led me to choosing to study abroad in Florence was the accompaniment of SAI Programs as well as the SAI Viva Experiences. I truly had no idea how much help SAI and their staff would be to adjust to my first week in Florence, and I am writing this to hopefully ease other’s worries about how seamless the adjustment really can be.

On Tuesday, I had finally arrived in Florence after almost a day of travel. I was excited and extremely anxious too. As I waited at the airport to receive my baggage, after 15 minutes, I realized it was not coming. Luckily, I was not alone in this process. With the help of SAI, I was kept updated on the status of my luggage and they held it for me until I could pick it up myself. The staff was very reassuring and helpful, which helped ease my nerves for sure. I’ve learned they are always willing to help, something very comforting to have while in a foreign country.

From the SAI Viva Experience: Hike to Piazzale Michelangelo

Aside from help with logistics, SAI provided the best activities for the first week in Florence. My roommates and I made sure to sign up for all the SAI Viva Experiences we could. After the orientation session, SAI held a Welcome Dinner at the Borghese Palace Hotel for everyone to meet each other and try traditional Florentine dishes. The palace was stunning; all ten rooms were adorned with the most intricate gold finishes and chandeliers making it a perfect place to have my first Florentine dinner. Not to mention the food (especially dessert) was incredible.

Another experience that my roommates and I attended was the market tour of the Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio. The SAI staff toured us around the local food market and showed us how to shop for our everyday groceries from the local vendors. While we were there, we were given the chance to try fresh fruit such as strawberries, clementines, oranges, pears, and apples. The oranges and the strawberries were the best I have ever had. After touring the outside market, we walked inside to see all of the meats, cheeses, and locally made meals. We also tried the most popular Florentine cheeses and meats, which were delicious. From the Survival Italian class we took the day before, my friends and I were able to purchase food and clothes at the market outside! I strongly recommend taking the Italian class to give you some good phrases for walking around Florence!

Inside the Borghese Palace Hotel at the SAI Welcome Dinner

Last but not least, my favorite activity was the Hike to Piazzale Michelangelo. Before the hike, SAI took us to a local gelato shop to try some authentic gelato. Despite it being a cold day, the gelato hit the spot. As promised, the top of the Piazzale Michelangelo was the best view in all of Florence. It was breathtaking to see the entire city, and I will definitely be going back.

These SAI Viva Experiences were the perfect welcome into this new city I am calling my home for the next four months. It was definitely the best kickstart I could have ever asked for to begin this journey, and I hope you take advantage of everything they have to offer as well!

Gelato before the Hike to Piazzale Michelangelo

Arrivederci e Buona Fortuna!

Written by: Gina, Spring 2023 Florence student from University of South Carolina

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