I studied abroad in the spring of my sophomore year in Florence, Italy at the Florence University of the Arts (FUA). I was very nervous to leave my home university (University of South Carolina) and all of my friends and family behind for a semester, but I was so excited for the adventures ahead of me.
What does your study abroad experience mean to you?
My time abroad has truly been my favorite semester thus far, and I learned so much about European culture and even about myself. If I could study abroad a second time, I definitely would! I completely and wholeheartedly believe that everyone should study abroad if they have the opportunity to do so, because it is such a valuable learning experience.
What travel tips would you give someone studying abroad?
While abroad, I traveled to ten different countries, and visited places that I never even imagined I would get the chance to visit. Due to frequent traveling, I have many travel tips for students planning on studying abroad. Looking back at my traveling experiences, I made many expensive mistakes in the beginning of my time overseas that I do not want others to make. Some travel tips that I can offer are to pack light for weekend trips (I used a large backpack), stay in hostels because they are cheap and a great way to meet other students traveling, purchase plane tickets in advance, take advantage of the trains/railway system, always have some cash on hand, and do your research before traveling to a different country. These are only a few general tips to follow when traveling, however, I think you might find them helpful.
What did you learn about yourself when you were abroad? How have you changed?
My experience studying abroad has been so wonderful and eye-opening. It made me think of the US very differently because my daily life living in Italy was so much simpler than it is in the US. For example, in Italy I walked everywhere because I did not have a car and I bought groceries almost daily because everything is so fresh. I really enjoyed the simplistic way of life that the Europeans live. What made me feel most “foreign” during my time abroad was either the way that I dressed or the fact that I knew little to no Italian. I regret not taking an Italian class while there, or brushing up before heading over. Although there isn’t really a language barrier in Florence, I think that they really appreciate when Americans at least attempt to speak some basic Italian.
What is your most memorable interaction with a local in your host city?
Even though most of my friends studying abroad were other Americans, I did make a few Italian friends. My most memorable experience with a local was an owner of a nearby shoe store that I often shopped in. We became good friends and spent hours talking about cultural differences between Americans and Italians. She also gave me some great food recommendations because she had lived in Florence all of her life. She became a close friend of mine, and we actually still keep in touch today! Overall, I had such a positive experience with the locals, and felt as if they welcomed me with open arms. My time abroad honestly flew by so quickly, and when May rolled around I was devastated to leave.
What advice do you have for new study abroad students?
For those of you who are about to embark on a journey, my advice would be to try your hardest to live like a local and really embrace the culture of your host city. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, make the most of every day, realize how fortunate you are, and make some unforgettable memories!
Sydney was a Spring 2019 Florence student from University of South Carolina.