Florence: a lesson about a different way of living Past Review

By (Benedictine College) - abroad from 02/04/2014 to 04/29/2014 with

Benedictine College: Florence - Semester Program in Florence, Italy

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My time in Italy and Europe taught me assertion, frugality, and independence. It gifted me with new friends, experiences, and an appreciation of a different culture, language, and people. During the Florence semester, each new situation taught me to be a leader, take hold of my task, and stay true to my beliefs while respecting others’ beliefs. I was afraid to ask the natives questions at the beginning of the semester because I was worried of what they may think of me, but as time wore on and necessity increased, I stopped worrying about if my Italian wasn’t good enough or if I was annoying and just did what I had to do on the spot. I also stopped trying to become someone different based on the country I was in, but, rather, I embraced who I am and where I come from while still being able to appreciate other cultures. Travel planning and communication with natives became smooth after mustering the gumption to live in the present and take action when the moment required. I needed to discover my assertive and independent side, and I think I wouldn’t have gained assertion so quickly if I had not been abroad for less than three months. I value having lived and traveled on a tight budget more than gaining assertion or independence. In my opinion, I would have eventually gained my assertion and independence back in the States, but traveling and living frugally can only be taught when you are actually doing it, which is usually not done in the States because of job opportunities, regular monetary support from parents, etc. I learned to spend money on travel and memories, which I think are much more worthwhile than a souvenir or a hot meal from a restaurant. I am more cautious in my spending and have become less materialistic because of my time abroad. Along with teaching me frugality, time in Italy strengthened existing friendships and created unexpected ones. I knew my Florence roommates before studying abroad, but we were just acquaintances and today we are still dear friends. My best memories in Florence were made with them and our friendship will always have a distinctive hue to it because of how we became friends in Florence. I also became friends with people I never had met before that semester. Everyone became a family. I have never been around a group of people so simply human before. Everyone was himself and herself, everyone was welcome, and everyone traveled together and shared similar, if not the same, experiences. I think this brother and sisterhood is due to our living, eating, and learning at the Villa. I loved spending my days in the Tuscan mountains with my classmates. The trip was full of impartial love and kindness. The memories made in this time are special and I am so grateful for them.

Review Photos

Benedictine College: Florence - Semester Program in Florence, Italy Photo Benedictine College: Florence - Semester Program in Florence, Italy Photo Benedictine College: Florence - Semester Program in Florence, Italy Photo Benedictine College: Florence - Semester Program in Florence, Italy Photo Benedictine College: Florence - Semester Program in Florence, Italy Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The program focused more on education by experience rather than education by textbook/classroom learning, which I think is how it should be when studying abroad; this method actually gave us the opportunity to learn from Italy itself.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The staff was friendly and helpful and Bobby would always give us extra cookies.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The living situation was very nice, in my opinion. There was a part-time maid service that cleaned our rooms and took out our trash and made our beds, which is more than I ever got in a dorm in the States!

* Food:

I loved it. There were gluten free options and, if requested, the kitchen would prepare meals for us if we would be running late for dinner or would miss it.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

This is not because of the program, but because of the type of experience I was looking for when I was there. I was not focused on trying to learn Italian well, practice it, or become friends with natives. However, many of my classmates did those very things and were quite happy with the new skills they learned and friends they made.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I never had a health problem there, but our professor broke his ankle while there, and I believe he received good care.

* Safety:

I never felt unsafe in Florence, even when taking the bus alone after dark

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

This program is an amazing way to experience a new culture without the stresses that come from integrating into a new country. It is a great way to get in some gen ed credits in an invigorating context. It also allows for a lot of personal freedom. The program is what you make it. You can learn Italian well and use it if you want to, or you can only do enough to pass the class. You can stay in Italy or you can travel to other countries on the weekend. You can spend time with your classmates or go into the center and meet other international students or locals. Really, the kind of experience you have is up to you. However, if you are looking for complete cultural immersion, this is certainly not the program for you. I would suggest a program that gives the opportunity of living with an Italian or an Italian family.


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

I learned how to live easily on a student budget the further the semester progressed. By the end, I had it down to a fine science.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Travel + alcohol + gelato = $50-300
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Make a weekly spending budget and stick to it. Plan how much money you will allot yourself to travel with, how much to spend on food, and how much on souvenirs and keep track of each purchase as you go. I downloaded a budgeting app that helped me.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? No Italian; Intermediate collegiate-level Spanish
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Actually use it! No one cares if you look ridiculous--you will never become good at anything if you do not look ridiculous in the beginning. It is quite fun to learn and then put a new language into practice, so I recommend just getting over your fear/ego/whatever and trying.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Location (Florence and Settignano)
  • Duration
  • Structure (living, eating, and traveling with BC students)
* What could be improved?
  • A smaller meal plan would encourage students to try the local cuisine of Florence and to integrate into the culture more, I think
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? > Use the language > Take time to explore Florence by yourself > Travel mostly in Italy; visit only 2 or 3 other countries > Adopt the Italian pace of life

Reasons For Studying Abroad

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The Outright Urbanite
A social butterfly, you're happiest in bustling cities with hip people, and took advantage of all it had to offer. You enjoyed the nightlife, and had fun going out dancing, and socializing with friends. Fun-loving and dressed to the nines, you enjoyed discovering new restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars in your host country.