Sarah Florence, ti voglio bene Past Review

By (Anthropology, Languages, Literature, Photography, 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 made a calculated decision to experience "abroad" as fully as I could. I gave Florence my heart and soul and it was absolutely worth it. The entire experience was a dream and I can only sing praises for it, from exciting beginning to tragic end. I can't easily put into words what I learned, but everyone who knew me before and has seen me after can vouch that I am a changed person, for the better.

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.

I might not have had the same quantity of resources as I would at Sarah Lawrence in New York, but the quality and diversity of resources I had in Florence is unparalleled. The city was my extended classroom for the year.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

My experience was as excellent and unforgettable as it was because of the dedicated and patient administration work done by Cristina, Paola and Irene. Anyone who opts for this program (there should be many of you) can rest assured that they will be placed in the MOST capable hands.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I got to live in a beautiful apartment just a 10 minute walk from school, and still very much in the heart of the city, with easy access to almost anywhere I'd want to go. I felt independent and pampered at the same time. I write to my host family all the time and we got along without any problems all year- I couldn't have asked for more.

* Food:

I dream about the food on a regular basis. I've gained new friends since leaving Florence by feeding them the treasured dishes I learned from my host mom in Florence. As hard as I try, I don't think I could put more love into my cooking than she does every single day. It's her not-so-secret ingredient.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

My sincere eagerness to learn about their language, history, food and culture must have been palpable because the Florentines welcomed me with open arms. I had to adjust initially, which I expected, but Italians can be so warm and friendly that you feel a part of the community, in spite of your differences. I highly recommend doing a few things apart from the program, to meet people you wouldn't or couldn't have otherwise. I volunteered at a film festival in Florence in the spring and made very lasting friendships with inspiring, wonderful people that I hope to be in touch with forever.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I didn't need to do anything medically to prepare for my move to Italy. My host family took great care of me when I came down with a cold and were prepared to do anything that was needed if I had a more serious illness or injury. Since everyone in the program, teachers and students, grew close quickly, we were always aware of how everyone was feeling and everyone helped each other in whatever way possible.

* Safety:

Florence is pretty safe as far as big, international cities go. As a foreigner, the most important thing is to make sure your important documents are safe. The crime to be wary of is theft. Pickpockets are common in public places, so have a hand on your belongings at all times. I walked home late at night, never running into any issues.

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 spent most of my money at the end of the semester, buying unique gifts for my friends and family (and myself, let's be real) back home. The rest of my budget was dedicated towards travel, and the little I had remaining, I spent on food and going out on the weekends.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Less than 20 euro
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Go to the grocery store and just buy bread and cheese and some fruit for lunch. The best thing about Italy is that you can eat well and healthily regardless of how much you spend. You can eat well anywhere else in the world too, if you spend a lot of money. In Italy, food quality and taste is so integral to the culture that I was never underfed or unsatisfied. Look for budget airlines and cheap (but safe and relatively clean) hostels when you travel, and look for free events in your city, preferably with refreshments included.


* 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

We had Italian class four days a week for 2 hours each time, plus we lived with families that more often than not, could not speak English. We were encouraged to speak to everyone in Italian, even outside of school. The wonderful program with the Castelnuovo high school allowed us to speak with Italian teenagers and make friends with them and their friends, who didn't slow down for us- it was a great exchange and certainly ameliorated our spoken Italian and knowledge of Italian slang. It is safe to say that I achieved fluency in the language by May.

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? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Beginning Italian
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Find a cafe or a bar that you like and become a regular. Make friends with the people that work there and talk to them as much as you can. Take up an internship of some sort. Step out of your comfort zone- it is so so rewarding.

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
  • 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?
  • Trips around Italy
  • Florence
  • Host Family + Food
* What could be improved?
  • Giving trip itineraries in advance
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Time will fly. Do not waste an extra second doing something you could do anywhere else- Florence is a gem of a city, truly a rank above others. Explore every clandestine corner and you won't regret it.

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.'