Bich Nguyen, Florence, Summer 2013
August 12, 2013

When I look back at my study abroad experience in Italy, the only thing I could think of was “Six weeks wasn’t enough.” It’s true. Six weeks is too short of a time period to really absorb the atmosphere of Florence. You need at least a regular semester, maybe even a whole year, to see almost everything there is to see in Florence.

During my first week back at home, my friends and family kept asking me, “What do you miss the most about Florence?” The food, definitely. Also, being able to walk around the city, having everything within walking distance, mom and pop shops, art supply stores with actual jars of grounded paint powders, beautiful buildings that “carved the sky,” the prevalent works of art, and really friendly shopkeepers and locals.

What I forgot to mention was that I missed the memories I made there as well. I miss eating desserts every night with one of my roommates. I miss going out to restaurants with the girls (all SAI students) and having a virgin drink. (I don’t drink at all.) I miss walking down Via Cavour and passing by a classical art atelier on the way to the Duomo. Most of all, I sincerely miss my roommates. If it wasn’t for SAI’s program, I probably would have never met these girls because they all live in different states. I’m glad I got to spend time with them, even though it was brief. It makes me sad that our paths may never cross again.

On my way to catch my early morning flight, I bumped into one of my classmates. She seemed heartbroken to leave Florence, almost in tears. When I saw her expression, I felt a tinge of sadness. Even though I was happy to return home to my family and friends, I, too, wanted to stay in Florence for a little bit longer, but then I remembered something. Right after I had written my second blog entry for SAI, I met a nice older gentlemen when I was on one of my painting excursions in Florence. He looked at one of my watercolor sketches and complimented them. “Those are beautiful. I do watercolors too, right by the Uffizi. Come visit me sometime (but not today because I don’t work.).” After our first short encounter, I kept meeting him every time I was out painting. I was not surprised though because the center of Florence is a small world. Every time we met, he would always wish me good luck on my assignments. (Maybe that’s why I did so well on my final project!)

Then on my last day as I hurriedly rushed to see Palazzo Piti before it closed, I met him one last time at the Uffizi. “Today is my last day here.” “Oh. Are you happy to go back home?” he asked. “No, I’m rather sad to leave here,” I replied. “Just come back again someday. You should probably hurry before the Gardens close.” He gave me a gentle smile before I left. Looking back on that moment, I noticed that he didn’t say goodbye to me. Rather, he was welcoming me to come back to Florence. This doesn’t have to be the last time that I visit Florence. Remembering this, I turned to my classmate and said with a smile, “You can always come back.” She smiled back.

Reflecting on all the wonderful times as well as frustrating times that helped me gain new experiences, I’m determined to save up money to return to Florence once again (but during the winter next time because Italian summers are just too hot). As an alumni, I would like to express a great amount of gratitude towards SAI. If it weren’t for this organization’s contributions, studying abroad in Italy wouldn’t have been a reality for me. Studying here allowed me to not only gain a boost in my skills as an artist, it also allowed me to make new, lifelong friends and to learn how to become savvy in an unfamiliar place (something I‘ve never really done before). Grazie mille, SAI.

– Bich Nguyen, University of Texas at Arlington


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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.