Where should I even begin? I started dreaming of the time I could potentially study abroad, long before I could even drive a car. Now as I sit at home, surrounded by family, friends, and my dogs, I quickly realize my dream from long ago is right around the corner. This week I will be flying to Florence, Italy for the semester and living my life to the fullest by immersing myself in the culture and history of the city. I am overwhelmed by the excitement and joy that I can barely contain myself. Nonetheless, the idea of traveling during a pandemic is daunting. However, SAI and Florence University of the Arts have both made the process of preparing for the trip as seamless as possible for the students and their families. I am looking forward to touring the city, studying at the University, and most importantly eating the food! I plan to live like the locals do and truly absorb all of what Florence has to offer.
Due to the rules and restrictions of COVID-19, traveling outside of my host city is not recommended for the time being. The good thing is that the rules for travel are evaluated bi-weekly, so I am hopeful for change and a safe experience while abroad. Some may be discouraged and saddened by not being able to travel very far or all across Europe; however, I am working to be the most optimistic about the situation. I will be able to stay in Florence, save money from traveling and get to see every corner of the city that is filled with some of the most spectacular places the country has to present.
Now that I have arrived in Florence and am beginning to settle into my apartment with my roommates and new surroundings, I am still in utter shock. I cannot believe that this is my life and home for the next three months, I am so fortunate! I am beyond words on how gorgeous the city is, and I have only seen a small portion of it. I have had the opportunity to try Gelato for the first time, I got a unicorn flavor that tasted almost exactly like cake batter. My roommates and I strolled down the open streets in front of the Duomo, with our gelato, for the rest of a gorgeous afternoon.
I am a little surprised about my host city because it is not very crowded at all, which makes sense due to the pandemic. However, this is amazing because it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If I ever have the chance to come back to Florence later in life, I guarantee that I will never be able to see the city like this again with such few people and tourists. The vendors and locals are very helpful and eager to get back into the swing of things, so I appreciate how positive they are about the situation. Altogether, I am taking in every moment and appreciating it all!
Rachael is a Spring 2021 Florence student from the University of South Carolina.