FROM CAMPUS TO COBBLESTONES: MY STUDY ABROAD JOURNEY IN FLORENCE, ITALY
If you told me a year ago that I’d complete a summer study abroad program, I wouldn’t believe you. For me, studying abroad never seemed possible. Until I did. Studying abroad opened my eyes to the world around me as it required me to expose myself to new people, experiences, and cultures. This is something I couldn't learn and fully comprehend in a classroom as I did IRL with my experiences below.
Jordan Komisarski, student at Point Park University.
Preparing for the opportunity of a lifetime and diving into the unknown, there was a whirlwind of preparations and emotions that led to my destination, Florence, Italy. It started with an acceptance from CEA CAPA. I knew this was the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to immerse myself in a new culture, make lifelong friends, and gain a fresh perspective on the world as I never traveled internationally before. The countdown officially began, and I was months away from a new adventure! The most important steps of pre-departure were paperwork, creating a budget, and packing.
Passport verification, health forms, housing agreements – the process appeared overwhelming. Thankfully, CEA CAPA spread out all the requirements over several weeks, and a CEA CAPA Advisor was available for any questions or concerns.
Then it was time to create a budget. I meticulously collected my savings, projected my spending, and prepared a budget that set me up for a successful, yet budget-friendly, trip.
And finally, the packing puzzle. What to bring and what to leave behind? I spent hours pondering this and months gathering clothes for my “European Summer” – linen pants, flowy skirts, dresses, and of course all the neutral colors are a must, but so are practical essentials. My biggest recommendations are designated shoes for abroad (I recommend Dr. Scholl’s sneakers as they were comfy and easy to dress up and down), a mini hairbrush to keep your hair photo-ready, and a hand fan (in case you end up in a European heatwave).
Before I knew it, I said my goodbyes and boarded a plane to go across the world!
View from my plane from PIT to FLR.
IMMERSING MYSELF IN A NEW LANGUAGE
As a beginner, I took on the challenge of learning Italian while living in Italy. It's a rollercoaster ride but let me take you through the highs and lows of my language adventure.
Stepping off the plane in Italy felt like a dream. The aroma of freshly baked pizza wafting through the air, the picturesque streets lined with charming cafés – it was a feast for the senses. But there was one small problem – I couldn't speak a word of Italian. My first Italian language class was a mix of excitement and apprehension. I was greeted with "Buongiorno!" by my enthusiastic professor, Daniela Lateana, a local of Florence.
One of the perks of studying abroad is the opportunity to immerse yourself in the language every day. I soon realized that learning Italian wasn’t confined to a classroom. I used what I learned and practiced on locals around Florence when introducing myself (“Ciao, mi chiamo Jordan”), ordering at a café (“Un cornetto, per favore”), or dealing with money (“quanto costa?"). However, learning a new language isn’t without its moments of frustration. There were times when I stumbled over verb conjugations or struggled answering questions. At the end of the day, it was the little successes that motivated me to keep on learning.
Beginner Italian textbook and workbook used in class.
BALANCING ACADEMICS & EXPLORATION
Finding the perfect balance between textbooks and soaking up the Italian culture is a challenge worth embracing. Here's a glimpse into my life as a student adventurer in Florence:
My weekdays (Monday – Thursday) kicked off with my Beginner Italian class from 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. I found the lectures engaging and the professors passionate about their subjects.
After class, I grabbed lunch, and aimlessly strolled through the cobblestone streets, sipping espressos and cappuccinos at the most famous cafés, or went back to my student apartment to relax before an exciting night.
Balancing academics and exploration required some nifty time management skills, especially for quizzes, midterms, and finals. I learned it was best to complete my homework and study right after class when it was the hottest outside. Then I could enjoy exploring, going to dinner, nightlife, and especially my weekend travel.
David of Michelangelo.
Weekends are when the real adventures happened. The proximity of Florence to other Italian gems makes it an ideal base for weekend wanderlust. I hopped on trains to explore nearby cities like Rome, Pisa, Cinque Terre, and the Amalfi Coast. In Florence, the opportunities for additional traveling are endless.
Cliffside village, Positano, in the Amalfi Coast.
As I reminisce on my time studying abroad in Florence, Italy, I realize it was nothing short of a magical adventure. Among the countless memorable moments I cherish, some left a lasting mark on my heart:
THE FEAST OF ST. JOHN
The Feast of St. John, held on June 24th, is Florence's way of honoring its patron saint, St. John the Baptist. The entire city came alive with festivities, but what truly sets this night apart is the grand finale – a fireworks display over the Arno River. It was amazing to see locals come together – cheering, clapping, and singing. The fireworks illuminated the skyline and I felt grateful for the opportunity to join in celebration and be enriched in Italian culture upon arrival.
LUCCA DAY TRIP
Lucca, a charming walled city, was one of the included day trips offered by CEA CAPA. We left early and hopped onto a train. After we arrived, my friend and I explored the city on foot. We walked around, ate lunch, and climbed the stairs of one of the bell towers. For the second half of our day, we cycled along the well-preserved Renaissance walls for a bike tour.
The vibrant streets of Lucca.
Another included CEA CAPA excursion was an authentic pasta cooking class at Chefactory Cooking Academy. There we learned to prepare mouthwatering pasta from scratch. Rolling out dough and crafting a zucchini appetizer and two pasta dishes was a delightful hands-on experience.
Cooking class at Chefactory Cooking Academy.
As the end of my study abroad program drew near, CEA CAPA organized a farewell dinner at La Beppa Fioraia. The evening was filled with laughter, toasts, and heartfelt speeches. It was a bittersweet moment, knowing that this chapter of our lives was coming to a close. Yet, the bonds made during our time together would remain forever.
I can't help but be grateful for these unforgettable experiences that enriched my study abroad experience. Each one contributed to my trip, making it an unforgettable chapter in my life's story. Florence, with its art, history, and vibrant culture, will forever hold a special place in my heart.
Jordan Komisarski is a Fall '23 Insider who studied abroad with CEA CAPA in Florence, Italy. She's currently studying marketing and sales with a minor in public relations, advertising, and social media at Point Park University.
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