After almost a year of planning and anticipation about studying abroad this semester, I felt like the day I actually stepped foot in Florence would never come. I boarded my plane in Boston and set off for a connection in Amsterdam before finally making it to Florence. I was by myself, tired, and nervous that I would be the only one without a friend already in the program. But once I met some of my roommates at the airport and took a taxi to our apartment, where we met sweet Donatella, our Director of Housing, I knew everything would be alright.
My apartment is in the heart of Florence, right next to the famous Ponte Vecchio, where artisans sell jewelry over the Arno River. The apartment building has so much historical charm, with statues in the lobby, which is quite refreshing compared to typical student apartments in the United States. The apartment is very beautiful and large and accommodates our 9-person roommate group quite nicely. One of our neighbors even has a dog, which has been very nice to pet when I miss my own at home.
I had been to Florence one time prior, but only for a two-day trip. My first few hours here I decided to go on a walk of the city. As an art and history lover myself, there are so many places in Florence that when I walk by, I have to pinch myself to believe they are real. Some of my favorite places so far include the Duomo, Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella, and Piazzale Michelangelo.
Piazzale Michelangelo is one spot I wasn’t able to see last time I was here, and it was at the top of my bucket list. There is an incredible view of the entire city from there, and it is best to go during the week when it is not as busy. There is something very interesting about doing mundane tasks like walking to class or getting groceries alongside thousand-year-old sculptures and structures that is awe-inspiring. Many of these art pieces and buildings are on the pages of textbooks, and I get to see them every day. I feel like the luckiest person in the world!
During our first days here, it was very nice to have so much support from the CET staff! My roommates and I enjoyed our personal tour of the city with none other than Donatella! We were able to ask her for personal recommendations for cafes and restaurants. I was curious to know what some of the Italian cultural norms are, and she was happy to tell me all about her life being from Florence. Although I have taken Italian language classes for about three years so far, I joined my roommates for the practical Italian class that CET provided. I appreciated the reminder of how to order a cappuccino, as well as what to say in certain situations during my time in Florence. As part of orientation, we traveled to a winery in Tuscany, where we learned the ins and outs of winemaking and wine tasting. This was a good introduction to the History and Culture of Wine class, which I will be taking this semester.
In addition to all the exciting things to do and see in Florence, I am also very excited for the classes that CET is offering. At Colby, I am a Biology major, so my course load is mostly biology, chemistry, and math classes. Here, I am taking two art history classes, an Italian history class, an Italian language class, and the history and culture of wine class that I mentioned earlier. I am especially excited for my art history classes because our curriculum consists of a lot of onsite classes—at some of the most sought-after museums in the world. I have only been to a few classes so far, but I am excited to learn from so many different perspectives this semester.
All of my professors are from different parts of the world: one from England, one from Germany, one from America, and two from Italy. I look forward to seeing how their experiences, both in and out of Italy, impact the way they teach. I’m excited to learn from them not only in the classroom sense but also in a cultural sense. On the first day of class, all of my professors dedicated a lot of time to getting to know each one of us, which I really appreciated.
This first week here has been so jam-packed with adjusting to my new normal and exploring everything Florence has to offer. The jetlag in addition to some culture shock, has been easily pushed through thanks to just how beautiful and dreamy this city truly is. The food and gelato has been better than I could have imagined, with some of my favorite places being Pizza Napoli 1955, Vivoli, and Sbrino.
One of my favorite moments so far was when all nine of my roommates cooked dinner together the night before our first day of classes. Prior to living together none of us had ever met, and we are all from different schools and different parts of the US. We all chose one part of a traditional Italian meal to focus on and came together to eat and celebrate. I am looking forward to seeing more of Italy, including trips to Lake Como, Modena, Bologna, Lucca, and Palermo and embracing Italian culture.