QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
We sat down with a few students with different backgrounds:
Amy, a freshman studying a full year abroad
Sydney, a Spring semester abroad sophomore
Natalia, a Spring semester abroad junior
What is day to day life like?
Amy: Day to day life in Italy is much different than in the US because there are so many things like afternoon coffee and other social norms that are different than in the states. You have to drink your cappuccino BEFORE your meal and not AFTER.
Sydney: Day to day life during the school week usually includes waking up, going to class, doing homework, hanging out with friends around the house, and then grabbing dinner together. Certain nights as a Romana family we will go out to the clubs and bars as well.
Natalia: On the weekdays I wake up, walk to school (it takes about 20 mins), have class from 9-12, and then we’ll get lunch (usually a panino). For the rest of the day, if I don’t have afternoon classes, I’ll hang around the city get a cappuccino/pastry with friends at some point or I’ll go to the study center and work on homework.
What do you do on the weekends when you stay in Florence?
Amy: There are so many places to shop and Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza Duomo are always full of people. There are street performers and street vendors and endless gelato shops and coffee shops to try. I enjoy just wandering and seeing what I find. Florence is a lot bigger than just the walk to the study center and back.
Sydney: On the weekends in Florence we like to walk around and explore the city. There are many tourist attractions that sometimes as students who live here, we forget to go see, so on the weekends we like to visit the museums around the city. On certain weekends there will be special events such as flea markets, chocolate festivals, etc. that are fun to go see as well. Weekends are a good time to go out at night because you do not have to wake up early for class.
Natalia: I haven’t stayed in Florence much, I mostly take advantage of the weekends to travel. This weekend I am in Florence and I climbed the Duomo, which was really cool. There are also a lot of good places to eat – food here is amazing (to say the least). I’ve also enjoyed the local bars and made friends with other international students in Florence (there are many of us here).
Your favorite part of Florence life?
Amy: One day I was walking around and there was a man blowing bubbles in Piazza della Repubblica and there were a bunch of kids running around playing with the bubbles and popping them and just seeing activities like this that you wouldn’t ordinarily see in the US. Walking is the norm here so there is always a plethora of ways to be entertained on your way to school or when just walking around.
Sydney: My favorite part of Florence is being able to live in such an amazing city in Europe, and learn the culture of somewhere completely different than what we are used to in America. Florence is one of Europe’s major cities and it is unreal to be able to live somewhere where so many people all over the world come to see just for a short visit.
Natalia: My favorite part is the food and the art.
Best places to travel?
Amy: In Italy: Cinque Terre and Naples (and all the school trips) Outside of Italy: highly recommend Greece, France, Germany, and Switzerland.
Sydney: My favorite places to travel have been Amsterdam, Prague and the South of France. Places I have not yet traveled but hear are amazing are Berlin, Munich, Budapest, Ireland, London and Croatia.
Natalia: That’s a tough choice… Scotland is really cool! Also traveling within Italy is amazing. There are many places I haven’t been to yet though!
Easiest and cheapest places to travel outside of Italy?
Amy: Greece is cheap in the off season for tourism. If you do enough digging you can travel cheaply just about anywhere. Just make sure you find all your options for transportation before booking anything. There are also travel companies that offer a transportation only option so you can ride their bus to and from your destination and do your own thing while there.
Sydney: A lot of places outside of Italy are easy and cheap to travel to if you book ahead of time. There is a bus company that takes students from Florence on a bus to many different places. I took the bus to Prague because it is expensive to fly to and it is a cheap way to visit many places. You can travel to mostly anywhere through this bus company for less than 300 euros which includes lodging as well as the travel bus to get there. There are numerous cheap airlines to travel around Europe.
Natalia: I would recommend using the internet to find cheap flights. I’ve definitely seen some cheap flights to Spain on there.
Amy: Places closer to Florence will be cheaper to get to via train. Again check the transportation with travel companies to see if that option is cheaper than a train.
Sydney: Anywhere in Italy is easy and cheap to get to. You can get everywhere by train or bus and most train rides as well as buses are pretty cheap. Best places to travel in Italy are Rome, Pisa, Amafi Coast, and Cinque Terre.
Natalia: Going to Viareggio was so cheap and so easy. I highly recommend going there!
What is it like living in the Romana apartments?
Amy: Living in Romana is fun because you and all the residents really become a family, and it makes getting to know the people in the program easier.
Sydney: I love living in Romana. Having everyone live in the same building is so much fun. It gives us a chance to make friends easily and it really brings everyone together as a family. It isn’t very close to school but it is nice to walk around and see Florence everyday on the way. It is way nicer than I expected and it is very clean.
Natalia: I really like it here because it’s on the residential part of Florence where there are cool places to go and hang out at, but it’s close enough to the center that getting around is really no problem.
Where do you go eat?
Amy: I stick mainly to the meal voucher restaurants, but it’s fun to have a cute night out somewhere new every once in a while. There are restaurants on every block you will never run out of options.
Sydney: The restaurants that accept meal vouchers are common places to eat. It is fun to eat with different people and easy to eat with the people you live with so we usually eat at Gusta Pizza, Gusta Panino, Golden View which are all located near Romana. Natalinas is a great sandwich place near school which also accepts meal vouchers as well as Antico Noe. Mama’s bakery is near Romana and has a great American breakfast (bagels, French toast), and everyone loves to eat here as well when you miss home. Jessey’s is a small café right near Romana, which has 1 euro croissants which is fast and easy to eat on the way to class if you have a 9:30 am class.
Natalia: I usually stick to the places that take meal vouchers, which I love!
How easy is it travel?
Amy: Travel is a little stressful but as long as you have good company you will have a great time. Just be careful when booking trips and always make sure to double check your order four times before pressing purchase (you could end up buying a flight for the wrong day….)
Sydney: It is very easy to travel and everyone will want to travel.
Natalia: Traveling within Europe is really easy, in my opinion.
What is shopping like?
Amy: Shopping is fun because a lot of places are willing to bargain, and you can usually drop the price by 10 or 15 Euros (I got a 50 Euro dress down to 30 once).
Sydney: The shopping is great. Once you get here you will want to dress as the Europeans do as they are more stylish than us Americans so their boutiques have very cute clothes but they also have stores like in America such as Zara and H&M which are great too.
Natalia: I haven’t shopped much here but from what I hear it’s not bad at all! H&M is a popular place to shop. There are cool stores/boutiques that are reasonably priced.
What about your cell phone situation?
Amy: Because I was here for a year, I bought an Italian SIM card for my iPhone which I think is a very good option. Another option is buying a cheap phone and a SIM card that you recharge every month. Overall the phone plans here are cheaper than in the USA, and I highly recommend getting a phone of some sort because you never know when you will have an emergency.
Sydney: For a cell phone, you can buy an Italian phone, is extremely cheap but can be used only in Italy. This is convenient to reach your other friends in Italy through texting or phone calls. It is a simple flip phone but it gets the job done for cheap and I would highly recommend you to get one because your American phone will not work, or will be too expensive to use around Italy. To contact family or friends at home the easiest way is to use wifi. There is wifi everywhere around Florence (or really all over Europe) in the cafés, restaurants, bars, study center, and student apartments. Facetime is a useful way to speak to family or friends and imessage works with wifi as well
Natalia: I have my iphone from the US that I use it with wifi and then I have a small European phone with an Italian sim card that I use for emergencies and for phone calls within Europe.
What you would have changed if you could have gone back and done anything differently?
Amy: The only thing I regret is not going on trips when I had the opportunity. If you have the chance to jump on a trip with your friends, do it. Take every opportunity you get because you don’t know if you’re going to get the chance to come back here again.
Sydney: Since you are living in Florence for multiple months it is important not to take advantage of this. Although you may put things off and say ‘oh I am here for four months we can do it next week’ just do it then and there because there is so much to do and see and you can never see enough.
Natalia: Don’t bring shampoo, soap, etc., you can buy that stuff here. Also don’t bring too many clothes because you’ll end up wearing the same 5 things all the time.
Hardest part about studying in Florence?
Amy: The time change is hard. It’s frustrating to wake up at 9 am and know that you have to wait until 3 pm for your friends back home to wake up.
Sydney: The hardest part about studying in Florence is balancing school and fun. Sometimes we forget that we are here to study is it is important to get work done, and show up to class, but at the same time not letting it take over your life either.
Natalia: Being far from family.
Is the language barrier worse or better than imagined?
Amy: The language barrier is not bad. Most of the people you meet will speak enough English for you to communicate, and the professors here to a great job of making sure you are learning useful Italian phrases that you will use out in the world.
Sydney: The language barrier is better than I imagined. Many people around Florence speak English but this is not to say that you shouldn’t try to learn and use Italian.
Natalia: Better! I studied Italian before coming and I’ve really been able to practice it and improve.
What is important to bring from the US that you need in Italy and is either harder to get here or much too expensive?
Amy: If you like Peanut butter I would bring some. It is very expensive here. Obviously any medications that you regularly take, just stock up for three months before you come.
Syndey: On the airplane you get one suitcase and it is an extra $100 to bring another. Spend the extra money. Also in the spring semester it is very cold so you will need a lot of warm clothes which takes up room in a suitcase.
Natalia: I’ve been able to find everything that I need here, but I would say if you have prescriptions of any kind you should probably bring those.