Ask Former Students

RandiRandi Greder
Fall 2015
Arizona State University 
Email Randi about her experience 

I am currently a junior studying Nonprofit Leadership and Management at ASU. I have volunteered at schools in the past before coming to Florence but I am hoping to Intern and then continue working in Entertainment and Sports Relations at Make-A-Wish America in Phoenix this spring.

Most Memorable Experience
I have to say any of my class field trips have been amazing, going from learning about it in the classroom to actually going to see it has been amazing. My favorite though was in my archeology class we went on a dig in Fiesole. Actually being able to “become an archeologist” was by far the most memorable thing I did in Italy. Even though it is a two-day dig, so it does take a weekend out of your semester, how many people can say they were discovering ancient Roman objects while they were studying abroad? 

Advice for Future Students
I think the best advice I have ever gotten about traveling abroad is experience everything you possible can. Meaning make this trip/semester everything you want it to be, not what others have told you or said for you to do. Experience the places you want to experience, especially if that means going somewhere alone, sometimes those are the best trips, because you meet new friends along the way. I also highly recommend traveling all around Italy. You will be very tempted to travel outside of Italy, and do this, but also go to not so typical places in Italy. ISI offers great day trips to some of the smaller “less touristy” places that are worth going on. If you have the chance go to Sicily I would recommend it, it is definitely different than the atmosphere of Florence or Rome, plus their food is pretty great! After all you are studying and living in Italy, you should experience the Italian culture and events that take place throughout the semester. My last piece of advice would be to fill your life with experiences not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.

E Ben

Benjamin Eckhard
Fall 2015
Marywood University, Architecture 
Email Ben about his experience 

I am currently back at Marywood in my 4th year studying architecture. I have worked the past couple of years in an architecture firm and doing home renovations with a general contractor. This upcoming summer I’ll be applying for another architectural internship, and getting ready for my final 5th year at Marywood.

Most Memorable Experience
My friends and I took a day trip to Assisi as our first big Italian adventure. We wove our way through the most amazing medieval city, in and out of countless cathedrals and small shops. After a near vertical hike, we made our way up to the ancient castle of Rocca Maggiore, which sits perched on the highest point of Assisi (already on the peak of the mountain). An endless series of steps and long dark tunnels brought us out on the highest tower of the castle. I can’t ever remember seeing a more incredible view than that one. The Italian countryside stretches out endlessly in a full 360 degrees around you. Not much prepares you for that. It takes your breath away.

Advice for Future Students
The most important lesson for getting the most out of Italy: be curious. Firenze is not a city that offers itself to you openly. Its best places to eat, shop, sketch, think, walk, and work are most often secret. You will only know this place if you venture down that strange alley you hadn’t noticed before (preferably in the day because walking down strange alleys at night is not smart anywhere). Every day walk a little further than you did the day before, or at least in another direction or a different route. And keep your head up. We like to walk looking at our feet, but the street is only so interesting. Notice people. Interact with people. Learn the names of the owners of your favorite bar. Ask questions.

JamesJames Mangiaracina
Fall 2015
Pennsylvania State University
Email James about his experience 

I attend Penn State University and I’ll be graduating in the spring of 2017 with a major in History and a minor in Philosophy.  After college, I plan on going to law school or staying in Florence for the rest of my life eating paninis and drinking espresso.

Most Memorable Experience
It’s difficult to choose a single most memorable experience (as I’m assuming most people will tell you), but my favorite part about studying abroad was my general assimilation in the Florentine culture.  I’m happy to say that I can navigate through a foreign city in Europe and know its best locations.  Being comfortable with going anywhere in a foreign city as you would in your home city is an amazing feeling. Florence really feels like another home and being able to say that is something I’ll always treasure.  Alternatively, my favorite memory is getting addicted to Florence’s unbelievably good espresso.

Advice for Future Students
Explore every inch of Florence if you want, or instead travel every weekend if you want.  I’d also recommend trying to get a basic understanding of the Italian language prior to arrival.  While not completely necessary, it helped accelerate the mitigation of initial culture shock for me at least.

stephanieStephanie Schmitt 
Fall 2015
Quinnipiac University
Email Stephanie about her experience  

I am now back at Quinnipiac University studying health sciences. When I graduate next May, I will be continuing at Quinnipiac in the Physician Assistant program. After the two years in the program, I hope to get a job as a PA in a hospital.

Most Memorable Experience
There are so many things that have made this experience memorable, but I think that what sticks out for me the most was the day trip that my roommates and I took to Cinque Terre our first weekend here. I think that this was when it hit me that I would be living in Italy for almost four months and that I was incredibly lucky to have an experience like that. Also, the two hour hike that we did really brought my whole room close together.

Advice for Future Students
Please do not ever stay in your room to Facetime or sleep or do work (don’t tell ISI I said that). The time here is too short and you will miss out on so much if you do not go for everything in the moment. I promise that you will always find time to catch up on work or take a quick nap, but you will not be able to recreate something that you never did. Enjoy everything that this amazing city has to offer, from the art, to the food, and the people. Be curious, try to integrate yourself into the community as much as possible, practice your Italian with the locals, and soak it all in!!

dianaDiana Abouchacra
Fall 2015, Art 
University of Connecticut
Email Diana about her experience 

I am in my 8th semester of university and will continue with my Fine Arts degree, with a concentration in Printmaking. My intended graduation date will hopefully be the following year in the Spring of 2017. After university, I hope to work on my ideas and make as many artworks as I can that touch on ideas that interest me which are social, political, and environmental issues. Maybe along the way I will be admitted to a great graduate program. Who knows where life will take us? – maybe back to Italy!

Most Memorable Experience
I have to say my experience in Florence has been incredibly beautiful and memorable, and the experience will stay with me for the rest of my life. It was one of those times in life where I found out so much about myself, about life, and about people. From the food to the culture to the art and architecture, I have never experienced so much before. I cannot pinpoint my most memorable experience here in Florence, but I will try to narrow it down to the types of nights that were most memorable for me, where words cannot describe how it feels, but I will try to do my best. Some nights, a few friends from the program and I would get gelato (ice cream) and go sit at the Piazza della Signoria. Being able to sit next to the breathtaking art and not pass by it hurriedly as if we were a tourists, was just incredible in itself;  not being rushed in order to truly experience the place in which you are in. There were always street musicians playing their melodies at night, and that combination with the art, I feel as if those nights are engraved in my mind forever. Sitting in a spectacular piazza with so much art, eating the incredibly tasty gelato, hearing the beautiful music, and being with friends – those nights were the most memorable for me.

Advice for Future Students
Don’t take advantage of where you are if you choose to study in Florence. It is truly an experience in which you should enjoy to the full extent. I see so many people, after classes are over, who just go straight to their rooms and watch shows or just lay in bed so many days. What I say to myself, is that I have so many days to be lazy at home, I should just go and walk around and sit and sketch somewhere instead of staying inside and wasting the time I would have had in experiencing the different piazzas, artwork, food, and people. And even if you cannot travel outside of Florence, or even Italy, you’re still in Florence!! You have already traveled to this amazing, breathtaking city; don’t feel ashamed if the rest of your friends are going and you are not, because Florence is well worth a city to be explored inside and out.

Alexandra1Alexandra Roberts
Fall 2015
University of Melbourne
Email Alex about her experience

I am back in Australia, in the final year of my Bachelor of Arts with a major in History at the University of Melbourne. If I’m not studying or working part-time, I’ll most likely be found at my favourite Italian restaurants or my local gelateria, a big part of me wishing I was still in beautiful Florence.

Most Memorable Experience
A few months here has left me with a thousand special memories and picking one is almost impossible. Maybe discovering my stomach’s limits at the Gelato Festival. Getting piercings with my roommates. Tuesday morning sprints through Professor Fischer’s lectures. Telling ghost stories over ‘family’ dinners in our apartment. Talking in broken Italian with a train conductor in Puglia.The day the Pope came to town. Crazy trips to traffic-island cemeteries and mountain-top monasteries with Simon’s class. Or, maybe the best of all, a simple night in Rome by myself. After rambling over ancient ruins all day, finding myself eating the city’s best tiramisu in front of the Trevi fountain, striking up a brief conversation in Italian with a stranger next to me before walking back to the hotel, the sound of a choir reverberating off the Pantheon. Magic.

Advice for Future Students
Be open to everything. Eat as much as possible. Try new food, things you thought you didn’t like. Even olives and mushrooms. Embrace the city and its quirks. The impenetrable masses of tourists that absorb entire streets. Speak Italian as much as possible and enjoy the magic when you’re understood. But, above all, be open to the people. Every face and every story you meet. Your roommates, the staff at ISI, the old man in the leather shop. They will make your four months, and you’ll remember them long after the taste of Carraia’s gelati becomes a distant memory.

Emily kellyjpgEmily Kelly
Fall 2015, SFESP
University of Virginia   
Email Emily about her experience 

I’m at UVA finishing my double major in Economics and Global Sustainability. After I’m done with school I hope to work for an extended time overseas at an NGO for sustainable development.

Most Memorable Experience
It’s almost impossible to restrict myself to just one experience, but for the sake of brevity I’ll go with one of my Sustainable Food and Environmental Systems Program field experiences. For a week I worked in the Mercato San’Ambrogio alongside stall operators, waking up at 5:30 am in order to get there in time for the market to open. While I’m never going to be a morning person, it was absolutely worth it to be able to be immersed in a traditional italian market, have in-depth conversations with italian shop-owners, and see customer-vender relationships from behind the counter, as well as be able to make return trips after the work-week ended to buy my fresh vegetables, meats, and pasta from people who knew me. 

Advice for Future Students
Don’t hesitate to ask the ISI staff for advice on anything, they’re extremely kind and helpful! If you think you’ve seen all Florence has to offer, you’re not trying hard enough. Florence is small enough to be able to comfortably find your way around in a couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean you have run out of things to do. There’s always live music playing during apertivo hour in a bar somewhere. Even if you don’t know much italian, take every opportunity you get to use it in the only country you can. Italians will appreciate your effort to speak their language and you’ll learn infinitely faster.