Italy was wonderful— but I wish I didn’t choose SACI. March 02, 2021

By (Virginia Commonwealth University / VCU) - abroad from 05/15/2019 to 06/22/2019 with

Studio Arts College International (SACI): Florence - SACI in Florence, Summer

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned a lot about the culture and practices of metalsmiths in Italy. This aspect was very worthwhile. I unfortunately learned a lot of other things about how to conduct myself in unsafe/concerning situations because of what many different men would do/say (many lewd comments, being followed, one man exposing himself), regardless of taking appropriate precautions. This aspect was not worthwhile.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I felt that, for the price, this program did not quite match up to my expectations. The pros: the professors for both my metals and ceramics class were incredibly talented and helpful. When I inquired further about certain types of specialty practices and artists in the area, they gave me contact information for relevant people and resources to learn more. The trips I was able to take while in these classes were also *incredibly* enlightening and fun. Cons: Strictly inside of the classroom, I felt like I could have learned much more in my home university. The studios had significantly fewer resources— the metals studio did not have certain things that I had had available in multiple studios I had worked in (not just my home school), and there was also a lot of equipment that did exist in the studio, but that hadn’t been in use in a while that even the professor couldn’t help me get working. In addition, despite the professor’s noble efforts, it felt like SACI had an incredibly underdeveloped program for more advanced students. I learned close to nothing technique wise and felt as if I was left on my own. SACI also required students to pay individually for a lot of smaller materials that I believe should have been provided given the cost of attendance to the program. The clay studio was also very upsettingly small- there was *NOT* enough room in the clay studio for the amount of students who were enrolled in the course. This lead to multiple different students having to work outside under a canopy in the rain for about the first two weeks. The adjoining courtyard was very pleasant to work in once the weather started to clear and warm up, but even then it was very frustrating to have to push past people in the indoor studio space.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

For lack of a better space to put it, I’d like to note an incident here that I truly hope SACI addressed as they said they would since it had been reported. To make a long story short, two friends of mine in this program were targeted and repetitively harassed by a front desk staff member. He made comments about their appearance, which graduated to asking them to dinner, then accessing their files on the SACI computer to get their personal information and send them emails asking them on a date. Additionally, he accompanied one of these girls to get medical care after she had injured herself one day, and during that trip, he took pictures of her on his phone while pretending to just be browsing on it. These incidents were not okay, should never have happened, and was deeply disturbing to me, not to mention the women it happened to, that a *staff member* who has access to personal information of students is using and abusing it for his own personal inappropriate interests. I don’t know what has come of this incident since these two girls reported it, but if it was handled in any way other than firing this staff member, I can truly say SACI would not be worthy of any kind of trust with your money, time, and especially safety.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My roommates and I were provided with a large apartment with ample space and amenities. The only problems were in temperature regulation— the lack of heat for the rainy and cold first weeks, and the lack of AC for most of the rest of the trip. Thankfully, a small AC unit was eventually provided, but only spread to one room of the apartment and lasted about 30 minutes before the water dish had to be emptied.

* Food:

It was Italy; the food was delicious both in restaurants and grocery stores. I especially enjoyed getting acquainted with the different brands of the foods that I would bring back after my grocery trips.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I stayed in the middle of Florence, so it was very easy to experience a lot of the local culture. In addition, it was easy to meet locals, so I was able to learn about and see new things that I would not have experienced otherwise.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I personally only needed to visit a pharmacy to get “over the counter” medicines while I was there, but it was quick and easy to do so.

* Safety:

Unfortunately, my roommates and I found harassment by local men to be a very, very prevalent problem. Every woman I knew who had come to study in this program was followed around in some capacity by a man at least once during the trip. Lewd words were said to us on an almost daily basis. Lastly and most upsettingly, a man exposed himself to my friend and I in a public park in the daytime during a picnic. The positive was that I did feel safe in my apartment, as there was a double layer of locked doors before you could actually access it. Otherwise, I did not feel very safe outside of it, despite experiencing this to a large degree in America already and taking safety precautions including using a buddy system and avoiding walking at night.

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

I loved seeing Florence, Italy. Going to Italy was an amazing experience because of being immersed in the local culture— the arts, the food, and meeting new people. I’m also so thankful I got to see how local artists practiced their craft and got to participate in that myself. However, I did not feel that I got my money’s worth by any means. While the professors I had were great, the studios were either too small, lacked resources, or lacked lesson planning to teach advanced students more so they could learn from the classes. A front desk *staff* member at SACI also targeted and harassed two of my friends specifically, made comments about their appearance when they would walk in the main building, used their personal information on the SACI computer to send them personal emails asking them on dates, and also took pictures of one of them while assisting them to get medical help. I find this last fact absolutely abysmal and really, really hope that this man was nothing short of fired.


* 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? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* 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?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The location
  • The apartment
  • The main building garden/courtyard
* What could be improved?
  • Vetting of staff members when hiring them
  • Space of the indoor areas of the smaller studios (clay)
  • Available resources and equipment in studios
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had known how much I would need to support myself in terms of learning new things and making a lesson plan for myself in the more advanced levels of classes. I wish I had also brought more of my own materials with me, as SACI did not provide many smaller things that other studios I have worked in have provided.

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!