Florence: simultaneously beautiful and ugly. Past Review

By (visual arts, Sarah Lawrence College) for

Sarah Lawrence in Florence

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I've always wanted to go to Italy, and I got to go to Italy! Seeing iconic pieces of art (like the David) or architecture (the Leaning Tower of Pisa), experiencing Italian culture, and living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world (while having such easy access to other parts of Italy and Europe) made the experience worth it. I want to learn more about Europe, and can't wait to examine the different parts of Italian and European culture and history up close again. However, I wouldn't do it with the same group of people, I felt I was randomly and unfairly ostracized by my peers, I was somewhat uncomfortable with my host family, and often times was very lonely and a bit depressed.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The workload was too heavy given the limited resources we had for each class as well as all the cultural activities the program had planned for us. I felt that there wasn't enough time to produce 100% SLC caliber work (especially conference work) due to our lack of library time; that we couldn't check out library books either was also very hindering. However, I found that the teachers were engaged and committed to our classes, and the classes themselves were interesting and certainly educational.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program's strengths lay in the cultural activities and trips they planned for us, as well as making sure that, as American students, we got acclimated as quickly as possible. The weaknesses of the program were that we didn't interact with any other Italian students; our classes took place in one building shut off from the rest of the street, and we didn't have much of an opportunity to meet any other students.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I liked the neighborhood my host family lived in, but it was too far away from the center of the city. The only way into the center was to take the bus (a 30 minute bus ride) or bike (which I couldn't afford). However, the neighborhood itself was safe and pleasant. As for my host family, they were nice and treated me well, but I didn't feel that we clicked. I always felt like a guest living in someone's home, like I had to tiptoe around and make myself as scarce as possible. It was also difficult to practice my Italian because even though they were supposed to speak only Italian to me, they often broke out into English, and eventually spoke only English to me, even if I answered in Italian.

* Food:

I was happy and grateful that vegetarian accommodations were made, although I noticed on several occasions that dishes that were supposedly vegetarian had meat in them. We also weren't always told which foods had meat so it would sometimes happen that a vegetarian would accidentally eat something with meat in it. The quality of the food was alright, but I found Tuscan flavors very bland after a few weeks. As for quantity, there was too much! Normally it's not an issue when there are large servings but in an environment where you're living in someone's house and they're cooking you dinner, you feel obligated to eat everything.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Terra Madre in Torino was WONDERFUL!!! Venice was a dream, the chestnut farm was so much fun (although I was disappointed we didn't get to pick chestnuts!) and the Chianti vineyard in Greves was amazing! All in all, I was completely happy with the trips and cultural events planned by the school!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I was safe and healthy, I had no problems here

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No


* 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)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

I practiced the language with my teachers, fellow students, host family, and people in general. I needed, or at least tried, to use it every day. I preferred to speak in Italian even though nearly everyone I met or spoke to could speak English.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Be bold, don't be afraid to make mistakes and try new things. It's scary at first, but after you come to know your way around you start to discover and have experiences you'd never thought you'd have. Explore on your own as well as with friends, and please please please try to speak Italian! Also, don't let anyone convince that winter in Florence is mild, bring winter gear!!!

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Italy, Europe, and the European Union

Course Department: Political Science
Instructor: Davide Lombardo
Instruction Language: English
Comments: The class was extremely interesting and challenging at the same time. The professor was clearly very knowledgeable about the course subject and did a good job of engaging the students and explaining the ties between Italy, Europe and the EU. I started the class knowing practically nothing about the EU and its historical and present role, and left the class feeling much more informed.
Credit Transfer Issues: No