Studying abroad in Italy was an enchanting, perception-shaping experience. Past Review

By (University of Missouri - Columbia) - abroad from 06/05/2016 to 12/24/2016 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It was certainly worthwhile. Beyond the atmosphere I can still feel, I gained understanding of a different culture. I learned that the way we do things in America isn't THE way, but ONE way -- places like Florence and Rome have been doing things their way and excelling all the same. I learned about myself -- what I'm good at, what I enjoy, what feelings I seek. Navigating a country I didn't initially understand, I gained confidence, curiosity, and drive that I brought back home with me.

Review Photos

SAI Programs: Florence - Florence University of the Arts Photo

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.

Loved it--learning and experiencing were completely melded together. My first week during the Cultural Introduction to Italy course, my eyes weren't buried in a textbook and they didn't NEED to be--we traveled, saw, learned on site. This continued during my 3 week Italian Journal course in Florence, with equal time given to classroom learning and outside experience. SAI was always there to provide additional activities (like city walks and cooking classes), and above all else, support.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

SAI and Florence University of the Arts worked together very well. In addition to the fun stuff (city walks, cooking lessons, excursions), they support you in terms of housing, academics, travel details. It is Italy -- the punctuality of service might be a bit different from your home country with the Italian-run FUA, but they will make sure you're fully helped. If things seem to be moving slow, be intrigued by the cultural difference and know you will be taken care of, and well.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I was pretty enthralled with my living arrangements. I had a third floor apartment on Via Fiesolana, and before I even got to it, I walked through a garden and under a very old, original painting on the ceiling. The apartment was uniquely Italian and was prepped for my arrival. Props to SAI for providing bedspreads, pillows, towels. It was certainly safe--Italian locks would put prisons to shame. Also, there was a couch in the kitchen. Who doesn't like that?

* Food:

The food in Florence is varied and good. Very good. The Cultural Introduction to Italy course -- 1 week before my term at FUA started -- gave me a taste of Italy from Rome through Tuscany. The tastes, the smells, even the sounds in the restaurants, make sure to take them in during your study abroad. You'll enjoy calling back to them later.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The FUA and SAI people do a great job of this, offering city walks, cooking classes, sports nights, and notifications of events going on in Florence. It's also up to YOU, though, to spend your free time tuning into the pulse of the city. Florence is safe, inviting -- there's no excuse not to.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

No medical issues to discuss, thankfully, but from what I understand, SAI has you taken care of. Insurance, a network of English speaking doctors, etc.

* Safety:

Don't let the 4 stars fool you -- in my experience, Florence is a very safe city, lively and quiet all at once. The only reason I don't give it 5 stars is because it's still up to you to use caution, be smart and responsible. Don't do anything in Florence you wouldn't do in America -- and because of the greater distance from your home country, certainly don't do anything in Florence that you SHOULDN'T do in America. That said, in case you're in trouble, SAI gives you their 24-hour emergency contact number, and be sure to carry that with you. You're smart -- be that while you're being adventurous.

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

On an experience level, I feel like I couldn't have asked for any better. The views, the sounds, the tastes, the people, the places -- that whole atmosphere is something I still venture back to, sitting in class or laying bed, just to feel again. Logistically, SAI made things incredibly easy while still letting us experience the city on our own. FUA let us meet Italians, interact with them, learn from them. They both took this beyond the level of a vacation or an academic trip -- they let us live there, breathe it in.


* 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)

Florence isn't ridiculously expensive, but being a tourist destination, it will cost you money. Costs will pile up if you don't pay attention.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? ~ $150
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Grocery shop at the beginning of each week - Mercato Centrale is a breathtaking place, and even the corner grocery stores are quite an experience. Find a trusted ATM ("bancomat") and take as much as you can out to avoid international fees. Venture out and eat/shop at places away from heavy tourist areas (south of the river is very nice) for the sake of your experience and your wallet. Also, get accustomed coins having considerable value -- 10 euro could be only five coins. Don't make my early mistake and hand them out like monopoly money.


* 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

The teachers are very happy to teach you their language, and many courses involve learning elementary Italian.

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? 3000-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? Getting the hang of Italian, especially functioning in the city, is incredibly gratifying. Try it out at restaurants, stores, with your teacher. It's nerve wracking, but it really shouldn't be -- if someone spoke to you in broken English, would you be offended? Goes the other way. Florentines are usually happy to help you through it.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Other
* 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?
  • The atmosphere and the encouragement to live within it.
  • Living in the middle of the city, practically within history.
  • The combination of freedom and assured safety.
* What could be improved?
  • Assistance with budgeting
  • Communication of class expectations
  • Education on public transportation
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Contact your teachers, when you find them out, and ask about the expected class materials. Museums are awesome. Go in. Venture away from the tourist spots. Similarly, find favorite places but stop there -- look for more.