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Study Abroad Blog

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Learning Without Lectures

Studying abroad takes your learning outside the classroom where lectures can happen anywhere, planned or not. With our CEA classrooms in Piazza della Repubblica, a central location of Florence, any class can take various field trips to teach in a new environment or experience class material first hand.
 Evening gown for Salma Hayek (Venice, 2011)

The fashion marketing elective class goes on several field trips, including a visit to the department store Coin to discuss visual display marketing with the manager and exploring the Gucci Museum in Piazza della Signoria. The Gucci Museum takes visitors chronologically through the history of Gucci, from its humble beginnings creating luggage to other products as extravagant as a Gucci Cadillac Seville. Our favorite exhibit was the original gowns designed for celebrities, such as Jessica Chastain, Salma Hayek, and Blake Lively, leaving us all desperately wanting a custom Gucci gown.
 Gucci's famous bamboo bag.

Other class have planned outings, like our Italian class, but occasionally we go on surprise field trips. The weather was beautiful one day, so we spontaneously went to Sant'Ambrogio Market with an assignment to ask the vendors for prices of certain fruits and vegetables and write them down to practice speaking and listening. Talking to local Italians exposed me to the language, despite struggling to understand them sometimes. But they would usually nod in approval, as if saying "Ok, I see my words flying clear over your head, but let's try again," and repeat it slower. The markets have an inviting and slightly rambunctious energy, with vendors talking to customers like they are family and the excited "Buongiorno!" coming from behind vegetable stands. If you want to practice your Italian, try going to a smaller market like Sant'Ambrogio because it is more personal and easier to take your time speaking.

The cultural perspectives elective class visited a book restoration facility to see the staff working on old scriptures and books damaged from the floods. They work with delicate Japanese paper and its long fibers to make seamless repairs to the pages and clean the various marks and stains on books. Coincidentally, the Italian cinema class took a trip to the National Central Library of Florence where they showed the books in plastic covers as a precautionary measure for potential floods. The books are sorted by size instead of subject for an efficient use of space and they are vacuum sealed into plastic covers which are heat sealed. Seeing the damaged books and the precautions taken for future floods solidified how much of an impact the 1966 Florence flood had on the cultural artifacts of the city.

Studying in Florence is not limited to the classroom as professors bring lessons to life through the experiences and field trips available in the city. With classes looking at historical Gucci products, buying groceries from locals by speaking Italian, and witnessing book mending, every day is a surprise.

Stephanie Ino is the Fall 2015 MOJO Blogger in Florence, Italy.  She is currently a senior at UC Davis.

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