What I Loved About Studying Abroad
Brenna, SAI Ambassador, 2019
September 19, 2019

Piazza Santa Croce quickly became my home base and absolute favorite spot in the city. Besides, you can’t beat the views.

Many people say that studying abroad was the single best thing they’ve ever done. A turning point in their lives. An incredible experience that allowed them to expand their horizons and grow in ways they didn’t think possible. And why believe them? Why should you trust the words of some stranger when you’re considering embarking on an adventure so new and exciting you can’t even comprehend what it will be like? Maybe because there are so many of us saying it. But also maybe because you trust that there are some experiences so incredible that the people saying these things can’t even quantify it or fully explain what an impact it had on them.

There are too many things to say about studying abroad.

But I’m here to tell you that my time in Florence WAS the best experience of my life. From the food, to the culture, the art, and even the cute little markets that give Florence the charm that it’s known for.

Finding hidden gems like this are what gives Italy its charm. No one can complain about Mt. Vesuvius photobombing pictures either.

One of the best experiences I had in Florence was interacting with locals. I lived in an apartment in the Santa Croce district, and one of the closest restaurants to my apartment was called the Trattoria Accadi. My roommate and I went there almost every week and very quickly made friends with the servers, Stefano and Kika, who came to be some of my favorite people in the city. Every time I came in, Stefano would teach me a new phrase in Italian. My favorite was a local Florentine phrase for being drunk, which translated to “walk like a chicken”. Aside from being a a fun little fact to share at parties, these kinds of connections are what make studying abroad and experiencing a new culture so meaningful. That, and the spaghetti and Accadi is incredible. So there’s that.

Florence is perfectly situated to be an excellent jumping off point for day trips all over Italy, including Cinque Terre!

Studying abroad is all about making the most of your experience. While I was there, I also volunteered for an organization that allowed me to give free tours to people from countries all over the world as a tour guide at Santa Croce, one of the largest and most historically important churches in Florence. None other than the likes of Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli are buried there, along with containing some of the greatest artworks of the Italian Renaissance. Because this was such a unique opportunity, it was the kind of thing that few people can say they have been able to experience. As an art history major, this type of hands on learning and comprehension of the field that I’m interested is invaluable to building a career doing something I’m so passionate about.

Santa Maria del Fiore is the most distinctive landmark in the city, and every direction anyone gives you is always in relation to the duomo!

This is where I get to the part where I tell you that studying abroad really has changed my life. But it’s true. Because of my short time in Florence, I am applying to grad schools abroad, the kind of leap that I never would have thought I was capable of doing before going over there. It seems like my life revolves around finding opportunities that will take me back to Italy, and so you are in a unique position where you are capable of taking advantage of the kind of opportunity that opens new doors and changes lives. And I urge you to take it. I can promise you won’t regret it. And if you’ve already decided to take the leap, I can only say don’t be nervous. SAI’s support system is incredible, and they are there to help you navigate this new adventure and your new city.

Make sure to make plenty of time to travel on the weekends. My favorite city was Prague!

There are so many places to go, but the world is such a small place once you start traveling. Florence is the kind of place that keeps you coming back for more, and without avoiding the cliche, it absolutely changed my life. Let it change yours.

Even the laundry is charming in Italy

Even Florence’s libraries offer panoramic views of the city. This was a favourite spot of mine to have a cappuccino and study while enjoying breathtaking views.

And don’t forget to enjoy some gelato. The best is from La Carraia, which offers a great place to sit and eat your gelato while taking in the Ponte Vecchio.

The best views of the city are undoubtedly from Piazzale Michelangelo. Bring a picnic and a bottle of wine up to watch the sunset!

Giotto’s campanile towers above the city. I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun.

Brenna was a spring 2019 Florence student from Colorado State University.

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