Saw many beautiful places, while experiencing a unique and timeless culture! Past Review

By (University of South Carolina - Columbia) - abroad from 01/26/2015 to 05/14/2016 with

SAI Study Abroad: Florence - Florence University of the Arts (FUA)

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I gained a better world outlook on current issues and learned from a culture very different from my own. Living and studying in Florence exposed me to a whole new level of beauty and history that we as Americans missed out on because we weren't discovered prior to the Renaissance. I truly admired and appreciated the craftsmanship in everything Italian artisans did, and couldn't believe that the buildings in Florence have been preserved as well as they have--it was like taking a step back in time! I also saw how Europeans view America as a major World leader and why we are under such intense scrutiny in every decision we make. This made me proud of where I'm from, more aware, and appreciative of other cultures. Lastly, I got to travel to so many amazing places with both family and friends, leaving me with great memories and an intense desire to go back!

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Although the academics were not overly rigorous, I did enjoy the aspect of out of classroom activities and field trips because they provided real life perspective and added to the material we were learning about in class. I also liked that most of the professors were not just academics by trade but rather experienced leaders in their respective fields--this allowed students to ask more in-depth questions and gain valuable insights.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Since the administration has a fairly strict attendance policy, and can only help you switch out of one class once you're there make sure you make a perfect schedule well in advance, that will allow you to travel and have as much flexibility as you like!

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The best thing about our apartment was location--located a mere two blocks from the famous Duomo and central to mostly everything. Although dated and sometimes crowded it was all part of the experience and I was happy to live there!

* Food:

I did not buy into the food plan but the food in Florence is pretty phenomenal and affordable so it didn't matter!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I did not feel super integrated into the culture mostly because FUA is completely separate from local Italian institutions and I was clearly an American tourist/student, but I got involved with the Italian Chat Pal club through FUA and met an Italian friend there who took me to soccer games, neighboring towns, and introduced me to his family and friends.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I was able to walk in and be seen within 15 minutes at the Doctor's office that SAI worked with/recommended. The Doctor was British so there were obviously no language barriers and I was prescribed medication to treat my sinus infection.

* Safety:

I never once felt unsafe or uncomfortable in Florence, even when walking alone at night. I think if you're smart, responsible and hyper vigilant you'll be fine--they try to scare you when you first get there about stories of sexual assaults and theft but I never once encountered a sketchy local.

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

I enjoyed the classes I took, the city I lived, in and the people I met.


* 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)

Obviously I couldn't work while I was abroad, and although I saved some of my money my parents definitely had to help me out too. However, I felt like most things like travel and food were cheaper in Europe though anyway. Obviously its subjective to where you study, but Florence never felt overly expensive to me.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Maybe 100 euro a week give or take, sometimes less sometimes more
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Don't bring credit cards to bars with you.


* 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

I placed into an Italian Intermediate course where the professor mostly spoke in Italian. As a part of the weekly newsletter sent out by SAI they also included useful Italian phrases and offered the Italian Chat Pal club as a way for students to improve their foreign language skills. However it was not required that every student take Italian like some programs do.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Beginner Italian
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? Take the language of the country you're studying in before you leave so you have some of the basics down.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* 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?
  • Roommates
  • Location/city
  • Field Trips
* What could be improved?
  • Class Schedule (classes multiple times a week instead of one really long class period)
  • Attendance policy
  • Better excursions
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had known how strict the attendance policy was and how expensive it was to fly out of the Florence airport, which was small and offered more limited flight options.