We caught up with SAI Ambassador Mary Paige, who took some time to answer a few questions about her time in Florence.
What advice do you have for new study abroad students?
The best advice I have for new study abroad students would be to plan, plan, plan. Once you figure out your host city I would advise to do some research on local restaurants, shops, tourist attractions, etc. I found that Pinterest is a great tool for suggestions on attractions, good eats and things to do. I would also say to try and plan your days out in advance. There are so many things these countries have to offer and the days go by fast, so you want to make sure you have enough time to get to everything in. Yelp was another great resource when it came to finding cuisine. When in a foreign country you don’t always know what’s hot and what’s not so this app was very resourceful in the planning process.
What was your favorite thing to do in your host city?
One of my favorite things to do in Florence was to go to the famous Don Nino’s for their fabulous cannoli’s. It was my go to dessert after every meal. These were truly the best I cannoli I’ve ever had. It was also super convenient considering the shop was located on the same street I lived on. It became a routine to stop every single time I passed by. I may or may not have been a little obsessed.
What is your favorite memory from studying abroad?
I think one of my favorite memories from studying abroad was climbing the Duomo. The Duomo is this massive beautiful cathedral that stands in the center of Florence. It was a monument that I passed by every day when going to class or to grab some food. I didn’t actually visit the Duomo until one of my last few days in Florence, so finally getting to see the inside of this beautiful cathedral that I had walk past everyday was breathtaking. The art and architecture were absolutely incredible and it was amazing to see how well the church had been preserved. It takes 463 steps to get to the top of the Duomo and although I was exhausted after making it to the top, the view was definitely worth it.
What surprised you the most about your study abroad city/culture?
What surprised me the most about my study abroad culture was actually all the walking. In America the cities are bigger so you have to drive to your destinations while in Italy the cities are smaller making everything walking distance. Going from driving everywhere to walking was a transition for me but once I got used to it I actually enjoyed it. It’s something I tried to incorporate into my life back home since it made me feel healthier.
What has your study abroad experience taught you about the world?
My study abroad experience taught me to be more open minded. Although I was very nervous about studying abroad, I think it put me out of my comfort zone which is something I think people should do more often. It taught me that there is so much more out there in the world than just where I live. Studying abroad has made me want to continue experiencing other cultures and traveling to new places.
Mary Paige is a summer 2018 SAI Florence student from University of Missouri.