Stanford in Florence, Winter 2017-18
Minor: Italian & History
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: This was the first day of my week long solo trip in Paris. I think this was one of two trips I took by myself during my six months abroad, and I can honestly say there are pros and cons to traveling alone versus with a group of people, big or small. It was also one of those "I learned a lot about myself and also slept like 20 hours" sort of trips. Ask me about traveling and making the most about your time abroad!
Why did you choose to study abroad in Florence?
I chose to study abroad in Florence for two reasons: 1) I am an Italian minor, and I figured it would be just as easy to finish my minor abroad as it would be to finish it on campus in California; and 2) I have wanted to go to Italy since I was 8 years old, with the goal of successfully ordering pasta in Italian in Italy. (Mission accomplished, folks).
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Florence?
I tried extremely hard to have low expectations for Italy and my experience before arriving because I didn't want to be disappointed. However, given I've wanted to go to Italy since I was 8, my plan didn't really work. So, I expected to fall in love with Italy, and that is exactly what happened, plus more. I had a rough arrival (i.e. lost luggage, cancelled flights, etc.) but none of those minor details could take away from the beauty of Florence, the kindness of the people in and not in the program, nor from the amazing homestay situation I had (with the best roommate ever -- she's the other ambassador for Florence by the way).
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Florence?
Other than finishing my minor in one quarter, studying abroad is a different kind of academic challenge. Not only do you have to juggle the normal (or lighter) work load that you would have on campus with trying to maintain some form of a social life, but you also have to navigate an entirely new group of friends, plus let's add learning a new language on top of that. Oh, did I mention that my host mom didn't speak English at home? So, yes, it is a challenge. However, it is the most fun, low stress, life changing challenge I have ever taken on. In addition to learning a new language and navigating a new culture, you get to interact with the coolest professors I've ever had the pleasure of being in class with AND you get to learn via your experiences. You truly gain a new, invaluable perspective on life and you can't get that in California in the same way.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
Given this a short answer, not a novel, I will limit myself to a few of the things I learned about myself while studying abroad. First, I learned that the only person standing in my way in everything (i.e. academic and social, etc.) is myself. I learned that my major and minors, while unconventional, are exactly what I should be pursuing. I learned my vocation is immigration and migration studies. I learned that I have some of the best friends in the world, and I hadn't even met half of them before arriving in Florence. I learned that I love Italy, and I plan to move there after graduation. I learned that, even though I will always want my parents, I don't need them. I learned that six months in Europe is actually NOT a long time, but rather a small taste of different cultures. I learned a lot more than this, so ask me about it when you come talk to me at office hours!
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
While I was studying in a cafe, I was accosted by an immigrant. He tried to kiss me without my permission and nobody did anything to help me. When I told a local about the experience, the response I received was I probably shouldn't talk to strangers. This is not meant to scare anyone, and it rarely if ever happens. However, it was challenging for me to navigate the different cultural response I received during and after this situation. Luckily, my friends in the program supported me, as did the staff at the program in Florence
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
Don't laugh, but I love large cups of coffee. I mean like Venti Starbucks coffee. That doesn't exist in Italy (literally Starbucks does not exist), so navigating how to properly caffeinated myself was a big adjustment. However, I turned it into a fun game, and tried all the coffee shops on my daily commute to class. I also found a few places that sell "American style" coffee.
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Florence?
My favorite part of everyday life in Florence was seeing familiar faces after about a month. People at my favorite study spots started to recognize me and would remember my name. The owner of my favorite panino shop would remember my order. The woman who walked her dog on the same route I ran to the gym started say hello. It was a beautiful thing to feel like I belonged.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Florence?
I think I have a list of memorable experiences as long as my list for things I learned about myself in Florence. However, two experiences stick out to me. The first was my birthday. It was about a week and a half after arriving in Florence, and I had some friends, but I was a little unsure of how to proceed since I didn't have my family and best friends with me to celebrate. However, the staff in Florence, professors, and my new friends made it the best, more memorable birthday I've had. The second experience that comes to mind is traveling on the weekends, both in and out of Italy, with people I didn't know well and my friends. Trips to Venice for Carnival, Palermo to escape the snow, Abetone to have "ski trip", etc. were and are the highlights of my study abroad experience, and have given me too many memorable experiences to fit into one response.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Best. Decision. I. Ever. Made.
What was your favorite food you had in Florence?
It's a tie between arancini (Sicilian fried risotto ball with ragu in the middle) and pappa al pomodoro (Tuscan tomato soup -- can ONLY get in Tuscany because their bread has no salt). However, best dish I had was the eggplant parmaggiano at La Fettunta near the Uffizi.
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
I feel like the correct answer is my passport, but I would say my cell phone. It is my connection to my family back home, the new people I meet, my camera, video recorder and memory keeper. Plus, it's super easy to travel with.
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Florence?
I discovered a whole music festival called Sanremo that happens every year (kind of like Billboards). The winners and runners up from this year and past years represent the best Italian music, made in Italy. So, my current favorite song is "La nostra ultima canzone" by Motta. But, the 2018 winner was "Non mi avete fatto niente" by Ermal Meta and Fabrizio Moro. Both are fun songs to listen to -- check them out on YouTube or google Sanremo 2018.
Every Stanford undergraduate should give serious consideration to studying overseas.
Regardless of the academic path you choose, you will be enriched by time spent in another country. Achieving cultural literacy and gaining substantive understanding of other perspectives in the world will deepen your awareness of yourself, your educational goals, and your own society. Nearly one-half of each graduating class studies abroad through one of Stanford's overseas programs.
© Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305.