Not the most immersive, but good for new travelers Past Review

By (Sociology., University of San Francisco) - abroad from 08/26/2013 to 12/14/2013 with

Fairfield University: Florence - Semester or Year in Italy

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Getting far outside of my comfort zone was a necessary experience for me. Even with the occasional hang ups, my time abroad showed me that I have what it takes to survive in a completely new environment. Not at all what I expected, but definitely worth it.

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.

My classes were interesting, but only one or two were academically challenging. However, many of the art history classes took advantage of the museums in Florence and we took multiple field trips, which was incredible!

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

All of the Fairfield staff were organized and friendly. Loved them.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Our apartment in Florence was the most beautiful place I've called home, and the housing agency ran interference with mechanics when appliances failed (a common occurrence in centuries-old buildings).

* Food:

Italy is a food lover's paradise. The program didn't provide meals, which allowed us to get out into the city and try restaurants and aperitivi.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I did not feel particularly immersed in the culture. I chose the program initially because all classes (except language) were taught in English and because I was afraid that my Italian proficiency wasn't good enough, but later on I wish I had challenged myself. At many points I felt like I was in an American school in the middle of Europe. I also felt like many of the other students didn't prioritize immersion in their experiences - there are plenty of English-speaking bars and clubs in Florence. There are some opportunities through Fairfield and FUA, like volunteering with a local charity or getting "adopted" by an Italian family. You just have to be proactive and confident in searching for them.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

The program provided travel insurance and a list of English-speaking doctors who were covered. I ended up with a lot of sinus issues during my whole stay abroad, and the system was very different than that of the U.S., but overall positive. The covered doctor also connected me to an ear-nose-and-throat specialist who really helped me. I had to pay out of pocket for the specialist and medications, but I saved my receipts and sent them to the travel insurance company, who later reimbursed me. Local pharmacies tend to have inconsistent pricing, so look around! No required vaccines.

* Safety:

Florence is not especially unsafe, but very touristy, so there are a lot of pickpockets, ESPECIALLY in the nightclubs. iPhones are a target. I didn't feel very safe walking alone at night as a woman, just because the city gets very quiet. My friends and I had to deal with our share of harassment from guys on the street - whistling, leering comments, kissing noises. I don't want this to deter women from going to Italy, but t is an uncomfortable reality.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No


* 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)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $175
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? In Florence, you can usually save on dinner out by going to an aperitivo - buying one drink for 5-10 euro and getting an unlimited buffet of appetizers. Also, rent a prepaid or pay-as-you-go phone - it will be way cheaper than trying to get an international plan for your American one.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
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?
  • Living with an Italian student
  • Program staff were enthusiastic and helpful
* What could be improved?
  • Emphasis on integration with Italian language/culture
  • Some support for LGBTQ students!
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Florence is very small - I avoided Rome because I thought it might be too overwhelming, but it is easy to see most of il centro in Florence in a few weeks, let alone four months. Take lots of trips throughout Italy!

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'