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Self-Discovery while Studying Abroad in Florence, Italy

February 12, 2024
by CEA CAPA Content Creator
a study abroad student posing for picture

My Journey of Self-Discovery while Studying Abroad in Italy 

Studying abroad in the enchanting city of Florence, Italy, wasn’t just an academic endeavor but an odyssey that reshaped my perceptions, challenged my assumptions, and ultimately led to a profound journey of self-discovery. In this comprehensive exploration, I'll delve into the multifaceted layers of my study abroad experience, encapsulating the financial intricacies, the transformative shifts in identity, the nuances of social dynamics, and the invaluable emphasis on mental health and well-being.  

Full moon in the sky over a statue

The most beautiful sunset views in Florence.

Financial Considerations:  

As I eagerly prepared for my journey in Florence, financial considerations became a pivotal aspect that I wish I had delved into more deeply before embarking on this adventure. Being on a tight budget, understanding the nuances of flight prices and the optimal choice of airports took on newfound significance. Florence, with its picturesque surroundings and cultural riches, boasts a small airport that, to my surprise, incurred significantly higher costs compared to other nearby alternatives.


The leather markets were one of the prettiest parts of Florence.

The lesson here was clear - meticulous research into transportation costs and strategically choosing the most budget-friendly options can alleviate unnecessary financial burdens, ensuring a smoother transition into the realm of study abroad.

A street vendor selling art

The artists outside of the Duomo were one of my favorite parts.

Florence itself, often hailed as the birthplace of the Renaissance, presented a mesmerizing tapestry of history, art, and culture. The cobbled streets, adorned with centuries-old architecture, became the backdrop of my daily exploration. From the iconic Florence Cathedral, with its stunning dome designed by Brunelleschi, to the Uffizi Gallery, housing masterpieces by Botticelli and Michelangelo, the city itself became an integral part of my academic and personal journey.  

a group of people walking in a city center

CEA CAPA Florence Center where I took classes.

Identity and Sense of Self:   

The impact on my identity and sense of self was perhaps the most transformative aspect of studying abroad. As I immersed myself in the vibrant tapestry of Italian culture, my home country started to feel like a distant memory. Florence's rich history and the palpable artistic legacy of the Renaissance cast a spell, leading to profound introspection about where I truly belonged. The contrast of the comfort of home and the allure of a new life abroad became a constant undercurrent in my daily experiences. Homesickness, a common companion for those studying abroad, was an unexpected hurdle. However, as the weeks unfolded, the bustling markets, the aroma of freshly brewed espresso, and the camaraderie of fellow students created a sense of belonging. Overcoming homesickness was a testament to resilience and adaptability, qualities that would prove invaluable not just in the context of studying abroad but in the broader spectrum of life itself. Florence, with its warm and welcoming atmosphere, played a crucial role in this process.

A street with lights and umbrellas

My walk home from classes everyday.

The local trattorias, where I indulged in delectable Tuscan cuisine, became not just places to savor authentic flavors but also spaces for forging connections and creating lasting memories. The city's timeless beauty provided a backdrop for self-discovery, encouraging me to embrace the amalgamation of my roots and the newfound experiences in this cultural haven.  

a street with people and buildings

Another glimpse of my daily walk home from class.

Social Dynamics: 

The social landscape, often overlooked in the grand tapestry of studying abroad, unfolded as a labyrinth of challenges and opportunities. Opting to live in the Social Hub, a hotel without roommates, proved to be a unique choice. However, I soon realized that many students arrived with pre-established friend groups or quickly formed connections with roommates, leaving those without such built-in social structures facing a potential hurdle. Navigating the intricate dance of making friends became a poignant aspect of my study abroad experience. Living without roommates meant that the traditional avenues for forging connections were not readily available. However, the silver lining emerged in the form of bonding exercises organized by CEA CAPA, the organization facilitating my study abroad program. These activities, ranging from cultural excursions to team-building events, served as bridges, connecting me with fellow students and fostering a sense of camaraderie.

Florence, with its communal spirit, facilitated these connections. The lively piazzas, where locals and students alike gathered for evening strolls and animated conversations, provided a backdrop for forging friendships that extended beyond the confines of the academic setting. The city's warm embrace encouraged a sense of openness and cultural exchange, enriching the fabric of my social experiences.  

sunset over a bridge and water

Another picturesque Italian sunset.

Mental Health and Well-being:  

In the whirlwind of navigating a foreign environment, health and wellness emerged as a cornerstone of a successful study abroad experience. CEA CAPA's exemplary support system played a pivotal role, particularly when illness struck. They efficiently connected me with local healthcare professionals, ensuring that I received prompt and quality medical attention. Mental health, an often-neglected aspect of the study abroad discourse, was given due consideration. CEA CAPA provided mental health services, recognizing the importance of holistic well-being in the academic and personal journey of each student.

a study abroad student hiking

Exploring the outdoors in Italy.

Additionally, the accommodation itself, beyond being a temporary home, included a gym that was free of charge. This added dimension not only contributed to physical health but also provided a space for daily rejuvenation. Florence, with its emphasis on a balanced lifestyle, seamlessly integrated health and well-being into the daily fabric of life. The city's abundance of outdoor spaces, from the Boboli Gardens to the banks of the Arno River, became sanctuaries for quiet contemplation and rejuvenation. The inclusion of a gym in the accommodation, complemented by the availability of free workout classes, reflected Florence's commitment to fostering a holistic and healthy study abroad experience.  

A blue lake surrounded by trees

Quiet place for contemplation and rejuvenation.

As I reflect on my study abroad journey in Florence, a symphony of experiences comes to life. The financial intricacies, the transformative shifts in identity, the dance of social dynamics, and the emphasis on health and well-being collectively formed a tapestry of growth, resilience, and cultural immersion. Florence, with its timeless allure and welcoming embrace, not only served as the stage for my academic pursuits but became an active participant in the narrative of my personal development. To future study abroad enthusiasts, I offer these reflections not just as insights into the challenges of international academia but as an invitation to savor the richness of the unknown. Embrace the charm of Florence, navigate the labyrinth of friendships, and prioritize your well-being. Let your study abroad journey in this cultural haven be a transformative odyssey that leaves an indelible mark on your academic and personal trajectory. 


Colleen Young, CEA CAPA Alumni Insider, studied abroad in Florence, Italy.

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