The Start of Everything New!
Brooke, Florence, Fall 2016
September 15, 2016

You never truly know what to expect when you leave everything you know to study in a different country. A couple of weeks ago I made that leap of faith and came to Florence, Italy for a semester abroad! I have only been here for a short time but, besides the fact that I still find myself lost a majority of the time, it is starting to feel like I have been here for months! If you didn’t read my ‘About Me’ blog, I’m Brooke Key and I am living in Florence, Italy this fall studying at Florence University of the Arts in the Master International Baking and Pastry program. I am here to share with you, each month, a little about my experiences and my progress!

Brooke Key - Fall 2016

Getting ready for my first day in the Program!

So, with all that being said… I guess we should start from the beginning!

The first few days in Florence were full of different orientations with a focus on allowing everyone the chance to explore and meet other students. This, for me, began with meeting my roommates!

Brooke Key - Fall 2016

My roommate Alexandra and myself in front of Santa Croce our first night in Florence.

Since I arrived with just a week to go before the start of classes I was excited to learn that SAI created fun activities for all the students to get to know each other! This even included a hike to Piazzale Michelangelo… I have to say that this hike was absolutely breathtaking! I still can’t believe I actually LIVE here! (Just look!!)

Brooke Key - Fall 2016

Anyways, it is safe to say that my first full week was filled with new adventures and lots of new friends!

Now, to give you a quick couple of HINTS if you are ever around this corner of the world!

Brooke’s Bloopers & Helpful Tips

If you have never been to Italy or maybe weren’t here long enough to know… you do A LOT of walking!!

So helpful hint #1. if you plan on coming to study or just to visit please remember to pack good shoes!! Trust me after mile 12 or 13 you will be thanking me! But I guess all the walking around isn’t too bad… It is an absolutely beautiful way to see the city and take in the sights!

This being said, I give you helpful hint #2, buy a map! Even if getting lost and going on an adventure is your plan, it’s always a good idea to be able to find your way back home. — Take it from me, I have gotten myself lost more times that I can count….! Some of those times I was even using the maps on my phone! (Thank you, Google Maps!) Anyways, I am learning my way around and because of the “adventure walks” I have found some beautiful hidden treasures and some of the best restaurants and coffee shops around!

Brooke Key - Fall 2016

Hole in the wall places are the best places!

Speaking of coffee, which is a frequent conversation for me, my obsession of coffee has become a necessity! You see, I have to be at Fedora (the bakery owned by Florence University of the Arts, where my experiential learning is held) every morning at around 5:45am! That’s right, I am out and headed to the bakery each morning before the sun is even up! However, I thankfully get to grab a quick espresso on my walk to the bakery and in doing so have found numerous cafes! Cafe hunting has even become my most favorite thing to do before 5:00am.. Wow I didn’t know I could have a favorite anything, besides sleep, at 5:00am!

Now, don’t get me wrong, Italy has been a great adventure so far… but starting the master program was not all sugar and espresso! I quickly found out that there are only 7 people, including myself, in the Master Baking and Pastry program. (And many of the 7 have already spent a year in Florence studying). So, on our first day, I found myself being very worried about, not only fitting in, but also catching up to the rest of the class. However, I am thanking God for the group of people he has blessed me with for this semester! Early on at our time in the bakery, I discovered that the good thing about having a small number of people in your program is that we are all able to become pretty close very quickly! What can I say, misery loves company… and we think early mornings count as misery!

Brooke Key - Fall 2016

No this is not all of us in the morning we are NOT this excited! But we are when we have the weekend off!

Speaking of misery… haha just kidding…kind of! I do believe that I do enough sugar coating in baking so I’m not gonna tell y’all that every day has been this amazing baking euphoric moment. On the contrary. I have gone through plenty of moments of feeling utterly overwhelmed. These moments have come from, but are not limited to, being in the kitchen and trying to grasp a concept, accidentally setting off a fire alarm, and to standing outside of a bank where my debit card had just been eaten by an ATM! (I mean really??… all the instructions were in Italian and the ATM refused to cooperate with my incessant poking!) Sometimes it’s just getting a little homesick after talking to friends and family from back home.

Brooke Key - Fall 2016

Viareggio beach……sometimes you just need a break.

Which brings me to my last and final update….

Insights by Brooke and Things to Think About!

When I am feeling overwhelmed my family is usually the first ones I call! I love that even though I am an ocean away their support never falters. My mom actually recently reminded me, that no matter what is going on in my day or in the kitchen, I need to give it to God! She reminded me that she is always here for me but so is God. ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.’
-Proverbs 3:6-5

These overwhelming moments pass and I am reminded of the amazing opportunity I have been given and the wonderful new friends I have been blessed with! (Heck, they even allow me to watch a play-by-play of Alabama Football games while we are out to eat and they even celebrate with me! **Shameless Alumni Plug** After 2 weeks of college football being back I have officially converted the whole kitchen and you can now hear the chant “Roll Tide” cheered throughout the fedora kitchen daily….even by Chef Simone.)

Well, to bring my first update to a close, Brooke’s helpful hint #3. No matter how overwhelmed you are or how homesick you may be, it is important to remember that those feelings are all part of the first BIG LEAP! The unknown is where you grow the most and I believe that’s why I am in Italy this semester! While it may be “normal” to feel these uneasy feelings don’t forget that you also get to experience the feeling of being awestruck by the world around you and truly amazed by the beauty, in not just the things you see, but the things you experience and feel as well.

Brooke Key - Fall 2016

I have seen a million pictures of the Duomo but now I get to pass it every day!

Many times just walking to and from the everyday places, I look around and it just hits me that I live in this beautiful city! Not only do I get to live in Florence, but I get to study here! I’ve said it before and I will keep saying it again and again, but I am truly ‘ baking my dreams come true’ one lesson, one early morning, one experience at a time!

I can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester holds!


Brooke is a current student at the University of Alabama studying at Florence University of the Arts, Italy during the Fall 2016 term.

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3 responses to “The Start of Everything New!”

  1. Would love to experience this trip with you. So I plan to follow you.
    Exciting and wonderful to learn in this way!!

    by Norma on September 18, 2016 at 11:11 pm

  2. Thanks, Brooke. It is so good to hear from you. It sounds like you are having a very adventurous time. We are missing you but we know that this means a great deal to you and it will all be worth it in the end. The way you wrote was so good. If you don’t make all the money you need by baking, maybe you can supplement with writing. Take care of yourself and know that we are looking forward to your return. We love you!

    by Leona Turner on September 19, 2016 at 1:29 am

  3. Thanks Brooke. I enjoyed reading this. I hope you will do it again and keep us up to date as you learn all about baking. I will have you in my prayers and thoughts. Take care and send me more blogs.

    by GAYNELL NICHOLSON on September 20, 2016 at 5:30 am

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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.