Living the Dream! (plus olive oil) Past Review

By (Liberal Arts, General Studies, Sarah Lawrence College) - abroad from 09/09/2014 to 05/15/2015 with

Sarah Lawrence in Florence

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I don't exaggerate when I say that this has been the best year of my life. I had never learned so much in so little a time. What pointed me to Florence was that it offered a new language, it seemed the right place to study Italian bel canto – I am a singer – , and it was the cradle of the Italian Renaissance – I am a visual artist, and love art history. However, I never foresaw just how much I would learn, not only in each of these areas, but about myself. Taking singing lessons in the Music School at Fiesole was an absolute privilege, especially since I was under the tutelage of Elena Cecchi, a great teacher. I can hardly recognize my voice now when I sing, because it's gotten so much better. It was an unparalleled opportunity to have the college arrange an academic year in a noted Italian music school, and the progress was tangible. SLC also had a piano in its premises, so music students could play and practice. I had never played the piano before, and gaining this new skill has made me very happy. Our Art History teacher at SLC also exceeded my expectations. Walking around Florence started to become not only a matter of memorizing the streets, but of learning to see the details and recognize the amazing history that has built it through the centuries. Learning to read Florence this way added a whole new dimension to it, and made the experience marginally more interesting. All in all, this program helped me gain skills beyond what I had learned to hope for. This in turn taught me a lot about myself and about the world around me. I can never be thankful enough for the enthusiasm and passion for learning and living that this year in Florence has given me.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

This year in SLC Florence has been the most rewarding academic experience of my life. With access to the Fiesole Music School, amazing teachers at the school, and the program's focus on learning about Italy through field trips, this year has granted me the best opportunities I could have hoped for.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Christina, Paola, and Irene are the most helpful people, and they are truly interested in helping students with any problems. Considering the amount of planned activities, field trips, and programs in the Fiesole Music School, as well as the printmaking studio Il Bisonte and the photography studio Marangoni, the program is very well organized. The introduction of the program, two weeks in Pescia, is fantastic to get better acquainted with the culture and the language (it's also tons of fun). What I loved most about this program was the importance the administration gave to the quality of the students' experience, ensuring we got the very best of everything.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I was very, very happy with my living situation. My host mom was an unbelievably good cook (I copied down all of her recipes), and the house was always clean and welcoming. My host sister was very nice. She has a band, so sometimes she invited me to the bars to see them play. There was also a cat, and since I'm a cat person, that worked beautifully for me. The only problem was that the apartment was a little far from the school, but my host mom taught me how to get the bus, and even walked me to school on the first day so I could learn my way around. Overall, it couldn't have been better.

* Food:

As I said above, my host mom was probably the best cook on the planet. In this program we were entitled to dinner every night except Saturdays, and breakfast every day. Since I'm used to having eggs every morning, my host mom did them for me, even though it's not very common here in Italy. And dinner was always fantastic. I cannot stress enough what a good cook she is. Love her!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I feel quite integrated with Italian culture. Part of it could be due to my Spanish mother tongue helping me learn the language faster, as well as similarities between my country of origin and Italy. However, I maintain that our introduction at Pescia was a great way to begin the year and get to know the culture. I strived to make friends with Italians, and being in the music school at Fiesole helped me to acquaint myself with different circles of people than that of the college. I think this cultural integration depends a lot on the language, and of course it also varies from person to person. However, the program's constant efforts to acquaint us with local traditions, daily Italian lessons, and field trips with professors who would tell us more about the place we were visiting helped me immensely to gain a wider scope on Florentine and Italian culture.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I only needed a doctor once, when a bad cough was turning worse. However, I did not have the school's health insurance. My parents and I decided to use another insurance, Assist-Card. From what I know of other students, no one had any problems getting medical assistance, and the administration was always helpful in those situations, telling them where to go (a medical center for tourists in which they speak English).

* Safety:

Florence is a perfectly safe city if you know how to get around it. We were strongly cautioned by the administration to be careful with traffic, especially with bicycles, because modern traffic in a medieval city can get pretty hectic. However, if you have common sense, you'll be fine.

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)

I give two and a half stars because the conversion rate from Colombian pesos to Euro was very steep this year – 1€ is almost 3000 COP. My parents earn in COP and we, as foreign students, couldn't work, so I couldn't earn money in euros. In the United States I work as a librarian, and this helps counter the exchange rate. So this year was considerably taxing in economic terms.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Around 10 to 15 €, I think.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Yes. Don't eat out every day, but make your own lunch. Many of us went for salads, or pasta if our host mothers allowed us to prepare it at home. It saves a lot of money.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes

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

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 10+

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The Music Program in Fiesole
  • The field trips
  • The teachers
* What could be improved?
  • Communication with the Music School
  • The possibility to officially take two art courses
  • Communication with the Music History teacher about concert dates
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Using the website airbnb to find places to stay when traveling. I wish I had known that earlier.

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 Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!