Surprisingly, when thinking about studying abroad, many students aren’t too concerned about the actual studying or school. In fact, they mainly focus on traveling and figuring out what country they want to spend their next weekend in. Weird, I know. *sarcasm*
The great thing about CEA is that they understand this. CEA does stand for Cultural Experiences Abroad after all! Classes at CEA are offered Monday through Thursday, leaving Fridays open for an extra day on the weekend to travel and experience your host city. They also offer many excursions and cultural activities throughout the semester in your host city and throughout your host country. Depending on the activity, they are scheduled on weeknights, as day trips, or overnight trips on the weekend. I attend the CEA Rome Center and some of the activities included in my program are: a bike ride through the Appian Way, a pizza and gelato crawl, tickets to a ballet, pasta making classes, clay workshops, and trips to Capri, Sorrento, Pompeii, Assisi, and Firenze.
This past weekend was our excursion to Firenze. We were to meet at Termini (the train station) bright and early on Friday morning. We then took an hour and a half train ride to Florence and made our way to a four-star hotel, located just a few blocks from the famous Duomo.
After dropping our bags at the hotel, and grabbing a quick bite to eat, our group of over 60 CEA students was split into two. If we went together with such a big group, it would be hard to conduct the walking tour of the city and keep everyone’s attention, so we set off about half an hour apart from one another. On the tour, we stared in awe as we gazed up and learned about the Duomo and Giotto’s Bell Tower, got to witness the beautiful Gates of Paradise at the Florence Baptistery, walked through Palazzo Vecchio and the streets of the old fish markets, and learned about Firenze both in the Renaissance ages and present. The tour concluded at the Accademia Gallery, where we saw Mr. Renaissance himself…The David. What an incredible experience! The statue is so much grander and more impeccable than I had ever imagined.
The rest of the day and night was ours to explore the city, shop at the infamous leather markets, and experience as much as Firenze as possible.
The next morning, we met bright and early in the hotel lobby and then headed over to the Piazza del Duomo and received tickets that allowed us to enter the Florence Baptistery and to climb both the Duomo and Giotto’s Bell Tower. Many of us climbed the Duomo first, all 463 steps of it. I honestly can’t decide what was more beautiful, the fresco on the ceiling of the Duomo or the view of the city from the outside at the top of the dome.
|Selfie on top of the Duomo|
I personally skipped climbing the bell tower because I conveniently thought the day we were scheduled to climb hundreds of steps was the best day to break in my new heeled booties. Needless to say, my feet were not up for it! I did however checkout the Florence Baptistery, which had an equally as amazing ceiling as the Duomo.
|Ceiling of the Florence Baptistery|
To conclude our CEA fieldtrip to Florence, we proceeded to a restaurant a few blocks away and had a pasta sampling lunch all together, paired with a glass of wine! I really enjoy going on excursions and trips with CEA staff and all of the CEA students. With everyone all together, it almost feels like a family vacation in a home away from home. It’s nice to feel that sense of familiarity in an unknown environment. I look forward to more of CEA’s excursions and cultural activities.
Courtney Blanchard is the Fall 2015 CEA MOJO in Rome, Italy. She is currently a senior at Stockton University.
Read more about our CEA MOJO Bloggers & Photographers.