1. What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB?
I took a variety of courses while abroad in Florence. I learned about the cultural history of the region through art, architecture and political history. I also took courses of environmental policy for the city and how Italian products are marketed. The courses were not as intensive as UCSB but contained content which challenged you to interpret in a new perception.
2. What was your favorite class abroad?
My favorite course while abroad was my sustainable cities course with Dr. Peter Fisher. He taught us about how the environment of the city changed over time due to tourism, water accessibility, and food culture. The course resonated in me as I am an environmental studies major. It was an interesting perspective from an Italian point of view versus the American standard.
3. Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad? If so, tell us
about your experience.
I worked as an intern for Florencetown luxury travels. I was part of a team full of Florentine residents. The ladies that I worked with were quite welcoming. I updated their contact forms for fellow travel coordinators among other workplace tasks. The experience overall was outstanding and gave me a glimpse into the Italian lifestyle.
4. How would you describe your host institution?
It was a small-medium campus tucked into the corner space of a large plaza.The building had great history as it used to be in the hands of some important Florentine families. The classrooms were large and utilized a great deal of natural light creating a green, old style environment. There is also a computer lab and a library to check out a plethora of material.
5. Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join?
There are many organizations and clubs for international students to enjoy at UCSB. They range from intramural sport teams, the excursion club, and career oriented clubs offered.
6. Describe your housing situation.
I lived in a flat on the fourth floor of a historic central Florentine building with three fellow UC students. We had a two bedroom, two bath area to split evenly. We had a medium sized living room with a narrow but workable kitchen. We had large daylighting features, heating through the floor and access to a clothesline outside of our many windows.
7. Where did you eat most of your meals?
I cooked most of my meals at home, but I would eat a few times per week.
8. How much was an average meal? Do you have any budgeting tips for future
I would say an average meal, if you were to buy something from a good restaurant or take away, would average around $13-$15. There are cheap quick vendors with many local foods for about 5 euro. Purchasing food at the local store and cooking for yourself is also a popular, cheap and an easy option.
9. Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary
restrictions to find meals?
No, Florence offers an array of food that can easily align with vegetarian based principles. The fresh produce and locally sourced products are delivered daily and provide a healthy option for everybody.Other dietary restrictions can be easily accommodated as well.
10. Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad.
My parents came to visit me in Florence and I took them to a fantastic restaurant, Acqua al 2. They served us delicious wine paired with their world famous blueberry steak. My dad and I both loved the meal so much that we decided to cook our own using their recipe for Christmas.
11. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?
All of the food and drink in Italy is fresh and locally produced. They are big proponents of the slow food movement which relies on locally sourced food and management to produce the highest quality of food and beverage. The locals pride themselves on quality over quantity.
12. Describe your host city.
The city was compact and boasted a large number of people. The city is famous for its robust tourism which in turn brought many walks of life together, The city is a suburban center of art, history and food to name a few.
13. Was it easy to get around?
It was easy to navigate the city by foot. My apartment was only a 15-20 minute walk from where I took courses. Public transit with the bus and rail system was convenient and could be purchased at any number of shops. Most people speak English so that was a plus for wayfinding.
14. Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future
I felt fairly safe during my time in the city. Pickpockets were a threat and cars were always bustling, but it was easy to be safe if you were observant of your surroundings.
15. What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city?
I played in an intramural basketball league with a mix of Americans and Italians.
16. Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad.
The pace of life in Italy was far slower than the hustle and bustle style I experienced in America. The businesses were open later and closed late at night. That was a difference that I became use to by moving my day in accordance.
17. How did you handle culture shock?
I had an idea of what to expect when I was coming to Florence. My cousin went on the same program to Florence the previous year and prepared me for life in this Italian city. I followed his words and acclimated quickly. I spoke to everybody, explored the city and never turned down a new opportunity to try something. I was open to any and everything that the city had to offer and was immersed rapidly.
18. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?
My favorite aspect of the Italian vulture is the manner in which they go throughout their day. They seem relaxed and take their time to provide quality to their day and effort. They are not always in the hustle and bustle mood such as in the US. They take the slow road and enjoy the process.
19. Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad.
My favorite travel memory was on my journey to Denmark. I flew into Copenhagen to visit a good friend of mine from high school. He, also named Alex, came from Denmark to study in the US in 2014-2015. I welcomed him with open arms and we even played on the high school basketball team together. It was now my turn to go visit him in his country of origin. He showed me all of the ins and outs of Copenhagen during my tenure there. We biked around the city and as an environmental studies major I loved it. This alternative mode of transit is a staple of the city and it makes it one of the most easy to navigate cities in the world. The rail system is also particularly exceptional because it is quick and central for the population of the city. After he took me to all the tourist highlights and local musts, we packed our bags and headed into the Danish countryside. We stayed at his parents estate for 3 additional nights. The hospitality of his family was unparalleled. They were all hospitable, intelligent and tall!
20. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big
Pickpockets. I did not have a personal issue with them, but they were out there and I had friends who experienced personal theft by gypsies.
21. What was your biggest challenge abroad?
My biggest challenge abroad was acclimating to a brand new environment that did not share the same language. At times the language barrier was a small issue. Most people in European countries speak English so that was a blessing. My background in Spanish and limited Italian language courses helped me interact with locals and enjoy the experience.
22. How have you changed as a result of your time abroad?
I have been far more cognizant of other walks of life. I have seen how other cultures live and go through their daily routines. I have added elements of other cultures into my daily activities and have improved my way of life.
23. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?
No matter where you end up, open your mind and enjoy the show.