“There’s no time to be bored in a world as beautiful as this” – Unknown
The best thing about studying in Florence Italy this fall is that not only am I baking my dreams come true in the kitchen but also my horizon is expanding and nothing but a growing curiosity for adventure and knowledge is left. There is so much more to experience than just classes when studying abroad! However, taking a gelato and a wedding cake class has been a truly amazing experience!! But what happens when you leave the classroom? Everyday is a new page to fill with so much of what makes you happy.
Being in Italy opens up a world of places to go. Unlike in the states where a weekend away means you go to the same lake, beach, park, etc. that you’ve been visiting since you were little, everything is new and nothing is out of reach, at least it can feel that way sometimes. Take advantage of your time to travel and explore the culture, sites, and local flavors. Back home in Alabama I know where to go on my weekends or after class and there is little prep required. Being abroad does mean you have to do a little more planning than just deciding to go to the lake for a day. You need to make sure you know where you are going and how you are getting there and what to do in an emergency. You are in a different country!
I have gotten the opportunity to travel a few paces so far. Know your school and programs like SAI as most who have trips that are either included or at discount package prices, including mini adventures to take advantage of the afternoons. There are a million student travel opportunities when abroad. Trust me you will get so many invites on Facebook the minute you decided to study abroad. However, you can also decide you want to go somewhere and get a group of people together and plan. My favorite adventure so far has been to Capri! Five friends and myself rented an AirBnB and had a beautiful time. Our house for the weekend was on a hill with a vineyard on the property that overlooked the city of Anacapri! One morning two of us decided to watch the sun rise. The sun rose to our right but the gorgeous part of it was watching as the light flooded in and you could see everything from the city, the sky, and the sea come into light and colors glow.
We went for a boat tour, seeing everything from a water view is amazing and humbling. You feel so small but also so alive as you look at the beautiful world around you! We even went to the Blue Grotto! Which is definitely on my visit again list!!
I am so thankful for the trips I have gone on so far and am excited for the ones yet to come. However, while getting away from the everyday streets and adventuring to new places is fun. I am in Florence Italy!! Anyone studying abroad needs to remember to take some time to explore your host city! If all you know about your host city is where you lived, where you studies, and maybe the closest market than you need to get out more. Remember you don’t have to take a train to experience something new… it’s all new! The best thing about exploring Florence is that you can do it piece by piece in afternoons, mornings, and a free day here and there. I have such a short time to experience this city. There is so much to do and see that Florence never ceases to amaze me. From the art that people travel a world away for, to the street art that someone felt moved enough to create. Sometime you just need to go for a walk and see what kind of adventure it turns into. Who knows, maybe you will find your favorite gelato place, visit a museum, (there are tons of these), or maybe your walk will turn into an hike. It’s not about the destination it’s about the experience you have. I love getting to experience Florence everyday.
While studying abroad you are with other students and like any situation you make friends and sometimes you even find special friends you may want to hang out with outside of class. (haha!) We don’t have to go to a different city each week to have a good time while studying. Many nights we end up all on a couch (and some in a window seal) watching a movie. We try new restaurants or go to a Themed dinner at Ganzo, the restaurant through FUA. These times with friends are just what you need to chill out from a busy schedule and unwind.
Surprise! What do you think a bunch of friends with a passion for the culinary arts do outside class to relax? Yes, we often cook away our stresses. While yes there are a million and one places to eat within walking distance sometimes you just need to get a group together and cook. Family meals are a great way to bring different cultures to one table. My friends and I are all from different areas. We are from different countries; different regions in the states and we all have our own idea of what the norm is. Don’t get me wrong I absolutely LOVE all the Italian food!!! However, take advantage of the markets and get the freshest ingredients to use for your back home comfort supper! Enjoy your friends, the flavors, and the different styles of cooking each one of you have. For instance I am from Alabama, and the saying “put the south in your mouth” is a way of life. Personally, I think Southern cooking is a class of it’s own. My friend from New York asked if I knew how to make biscuits and gravy…are you kidding me of course I do! So this week I made buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy for a group of friends. Now they understand “y’all”, “darlin”, and “bless your heart”. Honestly, we all have favorite dishes and different kinds of comfort food and I love spending time and experiencing the things that remind others of their homes. Even shopping for the ingredients is an experience as many ingredients are different colors, or have different textures, and even flavors when abroad.
Sometimes, when not in class, the best thing you can do is just take some time for yourself. “Il Dolce Far Nient” – the sweetness of doing nothing. This really can be a beautiful thing! Take some time to reflect on your experience abroad. There is something to be said about listening to you favorite album and reading a good book. I like to journal, it’s already been interesting to see how I have changed from my first week in Italy, to now where I am starting to feel like I am no longer a visitor but I actually live here. Sometimes I just sit outside and watch everyone around me and thank God for this opportunity. There is a big difference in being by yourself and being board and being by yourself and being content and just relaxing.
So the question stands “what to do when you are out of the classroom?”…Take time for yourself, reflect on this opportunity, show your friends you favorite dishes, go to a museum, adventure outside of your host city… the possibilities are endless. “Be brave, strong, and courageous seek adventure and truth for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9. Studying abroad is about more than just your education in the classroom it’s also about the way the experience both in and out of the classroom changes you and it’s a beautiful ideal to embrace!
Brooke is a current student at University of Alabama studying at Florence University of the Arts in Italy during the Fall 2016 term.