What was your favorite class abroad and why?
I took an Intro to Drawing class that I loved because there was something very exciting about taking an art class in Florence, a city that was home to so many famous artists. Not only was the class itself enjoyable, but it felt especially meaningful when I was spending my weekends at the Uffizi or L’Academia, or at any of the many, many museums in Florence. I also got to sketch the beautiful Florentine architecture as homework! I think taking that class in Florence was infinitely more interesting than if I had taken it at my home university.
What was your favorite thing to do in your host city?
Sometimes, my roommates and I would stop by the grocery store, pick up some wine, salami, crackers, and a bunch of different cheeses, and then walk down to the little “beach” along the Arno. We would roll out a blanket and have our own picnic and watch the sunset over the Ponte Vecchio. It was super simple but those were some of my favorite memories of my time abroad!
What travel tips would you give someone studying abroad?
Have some idea of where you’d like to travel, but I don’t recommend making too many plans before you arrive. You never know who you’ll meet that you may want to travel with or what free weekend or day trips SAI may offer! Also, when you travel, I recommend making some sort of game plan of things you want to do, food you want to eat, and sights you want to see. I had very limited time in certain cities, and if I hadn’t gone in with a plan, I wouldn’t have been able to do as much as I had. My last suggestion is to screenshot all your tickets (plane, museum, train, etc) and keep them on your phone – this saved me a lot of stress while traveling especially when Wifi or service was spotty!
Do you have any tips for learning the language while students are abroad?
If you truly have an interest in learning the language, take a class! While you will pick some things up like words and short phrases just from exposure, the only way to actually learn a language in the span of a few months is with a lot of practice. Additionally, try to speak the language to locals! Many people in Italy speak English and will speak to you in English, so if you want to practice you will usually have to initiate it, and keep the conversation on track.
Brianna was a spring 2019 Florence student from College of William and Mary.