Ruthie Lewis (she/her) - Stanford in Florence
Major: Mechanical Engineering
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: This is me at the final Bing dinner of the program. We ate dinner on a rooftop with a great view of the Arno River and the dome of the Duomo!
Questions and Answers with Ruthie
Why did you choose to study abroad in Florence?
I loved learning about the Renaissance in high school; I enjoy following high fashion; and some of my favorite movies were filmed in Italy, so Florence seemed like the perfect place for me.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Florence?
I expected it to be a relaxing and refreshing break from my usually intense engineering schedule. I also expected everyone to be super welcoming and nice because I had only heard good things about Italian people. It met a lot of those expectations, however, I felt much more like a foreigner than I thought I would.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Florence?
I learned about art history in the most immersive way possible: we would take about these extremely important masterpieces in the classroom and then be able to see them in person minutes later. It was also a lot easier to learn Italian language when I could test it out more frequently throughout the day.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
I learned that I absolutely love traveling and Italian cuisine, but that I really don't like being so far away from my friends and family for more than a month.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
The most challenging experience that I encountered was a feeling of isolation. My roommate and I lived pretty far away from the other students. My roommate and I also didn't really hang out together or go out to group events together. And I also didn't have any friends going into the program. I think the combination of all of that led to me often times feeling discouraged from going to events because I didn't want to go alone until later on in the program. I think what I learned from that experience was that while it's great to try and meet everyone, it's also great to just make sure that you have a core group of friends with whom you can hang out and go to events.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
Italians don't wear leggings or casual clothing at all. I felt extremely underdressed whenever I wore leggings, so I ended up buying a lot of nicer pants and skirts to feel more assimilated. I think also being in a place with so few black people was something that I definitely needed to adjust to.
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Florence?
Eating cheap but amazing food everyday and all the time.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Florence?
It was my feminist film class with Professor Campani. I had been wanting to take a film class for years and this was the first time that it worked in my schedule. Every week we would sit in a circle in the yellow room discussing themes and characters and our opinions on whether or not the mostly Italian and American films we watched were feminist. Through that course, I learned so much about the history of Italian cinema, the evolution of the Italian woman, and how to watch a movie with more discernment. It's genuinely one of my favorite classes that I've taken at Stanford.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Explorative; delicious; educational; immersive; exciting.
What was your favorite food you had in Florence?
Pasta all'amatriciana -- fresh pasta, cheese, bacon, and tomato sauce.
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
My most valuable item that I brought was actually the travel journal that my little gave to me before I left because I was able to write all down all of my thoughts and feelings about all of the memories that I was making throughout the trip and I know that I'll really appreciate having them stored when I look back at it in the future.
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Florence?
I didn't really discover any Italian music that I can remember now.