A Summer with the SAI Pre-College Program
Mikaylee, Summer 2022, Florence
September 14, 2022

My time in Florence was nowhere near what I imagined it would be like. I went into the experience with this idea: I would be taking a couple classes to broaden my knowledge of art history as well as learning new drawing techniques. The program would include a few mandatory activities and I would be fed two free meals a day. Well, not only did I get far more out of the courses than I expected, but our weeks were jam packed with all kinds of activities, both local and a train ride away. I would have never thought that my study abroad program would include a trip to Pisa as well as a visit to an olive farm where I’d taste fresh olive oil. The people I met there were absolutely incredible. I made multiple friends from all over, ranging from an hour or two away from my home in California to Lisbon, Portugal. During these three weeks, I learned so much about the culture and lifestyle of the people in Florence, Italy.

Every night as I walked back to my housing after hanging with friends, I was greeted with this view of Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral. The way it lights up in the nightlife is truly incredible.

Almost every night, my friends and I would walk down to the river dam to talk and watch the sunset before it was time to head back to our housing. This was right after our RAs took us on a gelato tour, where they showed us all of their favorite spots.

One of our weekly activities included with the program was a big walk up the hill to Piazzale Michelangelo where we were met with an incredible view of the sunset over the city of Florence.

I think my favorite part of the whole experience was attending the Florence Sketchbook course. Our “classroom” was actually the entire city. We would walk to different destinations, learn about the history of the architecture or countless Madonna’s along the way, and then sit down and follow instruction to draw what we see. This photo specifically captures the moment where we sat in a rooftop cafe and learned about angulation and measurement by drawing the Duomo.

For the Art History course, my professor took us on a walk to the Synagogue and Jewish Museum of Florence, where we were assigned to take photos of interesting architectural elements and research then with our group members. I really enjoyed the hands-on and involved assignments we would get in this class. They forced me to pay full attention and acknowledge everything in the places we would visit for the class.

Though the heat was nearly unbearable, we experienced a couple downpours of rain. When it would rain, the clouds would create the most beautiful scenes, such as in this photo where the sun was nearly set and only shined through the clouds that covered the sky. I feel that this photo doesn’t fully capture the true beauty this moment held.

When walking through the streets of Florence, no matter what side of the river you are on, you will find art work everywhere you look. The locals paint their art on the walls and signs that line the streets, which were also accompanied by the remnants of street art of the Renaissance. The buildings, which still have their old family crests on them, showcase murals and modern expressive work on the walls and doors, creating a place where you can compare and contrast the different stages of art that Florence has gone through.

Palazzo Pitti is one of the most incredible art galleries I have ever seen. As a part of the Art History course, I got a different kind of experience out of the gallery visit. My professor would pick and choose different pieces that correlated with what we were currently learning in class and describe the background of the pieces, giving me all of the information I could possibly learn about the specific works.

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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.