When looking at study abroad programs, the location can often be the most influential factor in choosing the right program for you. In my case, I’d never been to mainland Europe before and decided to spend the summer studying abroad in Florence because of its rich history, beautiful buildings, and culture. After I arrived at the Amerigo Vespucci airport at the end of June, I was sent off into a taxi to be taken to my new apartment, and it was the start of a great adventure. The taxi driver sped through narrow alleyways, barely missing pedestrians and people on scooters, and finally dropping me off on a random street in a country I’ve never been to before. I was then shown to my apartment and met my wonderful roommates, and from there we started our summer in Florence together.
My favorite part of Florence is the incredible buildings at every turn and being able to immerse myself in the Italian culture. Every ristorante, gelateria, and cafe has exceeded my expectations with the high-quality ingredients and laid-back feeling. At meals, you can sit and enjoy the food and ambiance for hours, without feeling rushed (like back in the United States). My favorite dish is gnocchi with pesto, which is served at many restaurants. Walking through the bustling streets, you can look at the buildings and imagine how they looked centuries ago and admire the rich history. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to walking past the Duomo or walking through Piazza della Signoria.
Additionally, if you are seeking to travel on the weekends either around Italy or to nearby countries, Florence is an accessible location and public transport is easy to navigate. On my first weekend here, my roommates and I took the train to Cinque Terre and went to the beach. We also took advantage of CEA’s scheduled excursions, spending a day last weekend in beautiful Lucca, and we are looking forward to the overnight excursion in Milan this coming weekend. After Milan, we are heading to Venice before returning to Florence. Being based in Florence allows you to experience much of Italy in only a few hours by train or bus.
I am doing a shorter, four-week program, and thus I am taking only one class. I chose to take The Culture of Food & Wine in Italy, because I knew that these are important cultural aspects in this country. I am in my second week of class and it has already been quite the learning experience. We have tried numerous cheeses from both northern and southern regions, visited a food market, and watched gelato being made fresh at the gelateria. At my home university, California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, our motto is ‘learn by doing;’ this encompasses the hands-on learning experience that every student should have. With this class through CEA, I can feel the learn by doing shining though as we interview market vendors and taste delicious gelato. While you can learn about Italy and its culture on the Internet and through books, nothing is the same as immersing yourself in the culture for a month. It’s exciting, challenging, and will provide you memories that will last a lifetime.
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