Sarah Lawrence in Florence Past Review

By (Art History, Criticism and Conservation., Barnard College) for

Sarah Lawrence in Florence

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Yes, it was worth everything. I learned that I can decide to do something that I really WANT to do and then DO it. I can show up and end up having the experience of a lifetime. It was effortless- because even the moments that sucked, the times when I felt down and depressed were actually GOOD moments. It was all part of the experience of growing. I really changed while I was abroad. I learned that I can make friends and fall in love with academics and art. My heart wasn't in it until I went there. I was asking questions in class. I was looking forward to school trips- because they were to go see Michelangelo and Pierfrancesco!!! I got to drink wine with my professors. I learned how to gild a panel painting. I listened to live music. I ate incredible food. And all the while, I was in turmoil- ups and downs- and then it all worked out in the end. And I have more memories than I have ever had before. I know now that I love art history- and I would love to consider graduate school for it or for art restoration. I discovered a love of photography. I also learned that people all over the world are basically the same, despite their differences. And I realized that everything will all be okay in life- in one way or another. You just have to be brave enough to take chances.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months
The term and year this program took place: Spring 2010

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The workload was reasonable- Art History: Weekly summaries, Final 20 page research paper (done over entire semester), Final exam with ID's and 3 essays, Presentation on research; Art Restoration: 3 projects in workshop, Midterm paper for lecture, Final 20 page research paper, Presentation done on research; Italian: Daily homework assignments, about 3 tests including final exam, Final research project. All of this was not done through the University of Florence, but through the SLC program in Florence. It has its own school near Santa Croce.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program was tiny and intimate- three women worked in the office, in the same building where we had all our classes and hung out. They were obviously very accessible- and very helpful! Also, they knew what they were doing. And since they were native Florentines, they knew the area. Our program had 15 students, which is less than usual- usually the program is about 30. But I loved the small size. The school was perfect- in a tiny, beautiful courtyard with plants- had a small library of treasured books in English, a copier, a computer/printer area, a living room of sorts with four huge couches, a table, cubbies, and various classrooms with projectors and everything a classroom needs. My expectations were exceeded.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived with a family- mom, dad, two sons (20 and 21), and 2 girls from another program. I had my own room. It was in a residential neighborhood- safe and nice- and only a 17 (approx) minute walk to school. There was also a bus stop nearby. The school gave us bus passes (great!). <br /><br /> The school assigned us to our host families after they got to know us better over Orientation in Lucca. I had a family on the larger side. You should make sure you know what you are looking for: a connection with the family or a more independent experience. Mine was more independent. The school asks for your preferences ahead of time- and what your interests are, etc.. Most people were fairly close to school and the center of town. Everyone had really nice families and amazing homes to live in. The family provides you with everything, including pictures on the wall. My host mom did my laundry and folded it, too. You can't use the kitchen/fridge unless you ask (the kitchen is an important place!), but there was always fruit and nutella available.

* Food:

There is a TON of food- a bowl filled with pasta, then a plate filled with meat and veggies. The food was good and I gained a lot of weight. You can ask your host mom to serve you less. The school places vegetarians etc. appropriately. There is always dessert on Sundays. If you are in Florence, eat at Pizzaioulo. Also, there are a lot of good kebab places.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

It was hard to get adjusted, but the program was so small that I got to know EVERYONE. I saw my friends EVERY DAY. I went on class trips with them and then the school took us all on getaways on the weekends. The school took us to Napoli, Roma, Urbino, Arezzo, Lucca, etc. etc. etc.. The list goes on. Some of my favorite trips were in the hills around Florence. The school fed us tons of food and wine and we once had a 4 hour lunch! EVERY SINGLE EVENT that the school organized was fantastic. I was out and about Italy every single weekend. We never slept in- but we loved it!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

From what I heard, it was easy to get medical assistance. I never had any problems. The city was really, really small- and therefore really, really safe. Men would approach you but it was all talk. And we always walked in groups. Also, if you make sure to remind them, cabs will take a percentage off for women who are alone at night. No vaccines needed.

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


* 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? Because the dollar was so bad, I spent more than I wanted. But all you had to buy was lunch- and the supermarket or some fruit from the host family was always an option. Some host families packed lunch (but that is just an extra, not required by the program). I spent about 8 euros on lunch every day- salad, a drink, snacks, etc.. You also inevitably spend a lot on Saturday night dinners- the food is so good in Italy, it's hard to resist.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Make sure you have travel money because you won't be able to resist the 2 week long spring break. And your friend will probably travel- We went to Prague and Barcelona.


How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Intermediate Italian II
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

The program made sure we were all placed in Italian homes- all of the families were very experienced hosts. They provided a single room, breakfasts and dinners (except Saturday nights). The families never spoke English with us, even if they knew the language. Also everyone who ran/worked at the SLC program was Florentine and they were all friends- and made an effort to integrate us. Florence itself is very touristy- so sometimes shop owners etc. speak English even if you speak to them in Italian. But you can find people to talk to, for sure.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? DO IT. You can't lose anything. It changed my life. You will make life-long friends (I hope!) and get to LIVE IN a city that most people only get to pass through on their way to their next destination. I know Florence is touristy and the culture is covered in a layer of tourist crap- But with THIS program, SLC, you CAN uncover the real Florence underneath. You'll fall in love with the countryside, the buildings, the art, the people- and even the pigeons that lay in wait on the rooftops- and then shit on your coat two times! Everyone on this program was artsy and FUN. They would often sit in on classes just for fun- I was so inspired by everyone's drive and passion! No one took Florence for granted- everyone was there for the ride. And they took me along, too. GO.