Since this was my second time studying abroad, I felt much more prepared going into this semester. Studying away can seem daunting, but I really believe everyone should take advantage of it. Florence is a beautiful city, and I would highly recommend it. Here are some of my tips for studying abroad and living in Florence:
- Come in with an open mind. One of my biggest struggles in adjusting to Florence was that I kept comparing it to my semester in London last semester. London is by far my favorite city ever, so I was setting myself up for disappointment here. After some time, I came to realize the many pros that Florence had to offer and learned to love it in a different way. When you study abroad, I think you need to be ready to roll with the punches for a couple of weeks. Adjusting to a new place is not easy to do. So just give it time and go with it and it will be ok.
- Know that it’s ok to feel homesick. There will inevitably be days when you feel lonely or homesick. You are not wasting your time here if you feel sad. I think this is a big misconception with study abroad. Sadness is a normal human emotion and there are times when you will feel sad. Whenever I felt sad or missed home, I would Facetime my mom, then I would go out and do something fun in Florence to remind myself why I chose to study abroad in the first place.
- Step out of your comfort zone. This isn’t the easiest one for me. But study abroad is all about pushing yourself to experience different things. First of all, the campus is so small that it is so easy to make friends because you’re always running into the same people. Don’t worry if you came here alone (I only knew one person when I got here), get to know your roommates and the people in your classes. You’ll easily bond because you’re all going through this strange experience together. My friends that I’ve made abroad both this semester and last year are now some of my closest friends at school. Second, try some new things you wouldn’t normally do at home. Eat new foods, explore new places, and try new activities. It will make your semester away that much more memorable and valuable.
- Don’t be afraid to go off and do things alone. You might not always have someone who wants to go see that museum with you, so go by yourself. Florence is very safe, so you will feel perfectly comfortable wandering around alone. Just be smart because there are pickpockets in more crowded areas.
- Speak Italian! You would think this one goes without saying, but everyone here speaks English. Although it’s nice to have English to fall back on, push yourself to speak Italian. It’s a big part of the learning experience of being in a new country, and the best way to learn is by speaking to Italians.
- Do the touristy things. But do them early. By the end of the semester, you might reach a point where you see the Duomo and associate it with the annoying crowds always surrounding it. So make sure you go see all the major city sights when you first get here, before the wow wears off. It’s also a great way to get your bearings in the city, as most of the off campus apartments are right near the major sites. (If you come in the spring semester, tourist season also picks up about halfway through the semester, so it’s best to see everything before it gets too busy.) Make sure to see the Duomo, Santa Croce, Ponte Vecchio, Piazzale Michelangelo, Boboli Gardens, the Uffizi, and the Academia.
- Travel, but not too much. It’s so easy and affordable to travel around Europe so take advantage of it! There are usually flights from Florence to most places, but it’s also easy to fly out of Bologna and Pisa. Europe has so much to offer so go cross a few places off your list. Some of my favorites this semester were Copenhagen, Santorini, Edinburgh, and Barcelona. However, make sure you save some weekends for exploring your home city!
- Travel around Italy. Make sure you explore the amazing country you’re living in! I am amazed by how different the regions in Italy are, and each is worth visiting. Train travel is so simple and usually pretty cheap. I would recommend Cinque Terre (see photo), Rome, Venice, Sorrento, and Capri. (I also really regret not making it to Sicily!).
- Best places in Florence.
- Campus is amazing. I know everyone says that, but seriously it’s beautiful. Take advantage of it.
- That being said, I’m so glad I lived off campus, as we are so close to everything the city has to offer.
- Cafes: Ditta Artigianale, La Milkeria
- Restaurants: La Giostra, Gusta Pizza, Acqua al Due
- Gelato: Gelateria Dei Neri, Edouardo’s
- If/When you get sick of pizza and pasta: Dim Sum, Tijuana, Off the Hook
- Best shopping: near Santa Maria Novella and Piazza della Republica
- Have so much fun! It’s such a unique experience and it goes by so quickly. Enjoy your time abroad!
- cinque_terre: Sammie