My Academic Experience Taking Five Classes at ISI Florence!

By Erica Choe, Harvard College | GLP ISI Florence Spring 2024

Academics are one of the most important considerations when it comes to studying abroad. Not only is it ideal for students to fulfill course requirements when studying abroad but it is important to take classes that one has a genuine interest in.

When researching the course offerings at ISI Florence, I was impressed by the diverse offerings. From Forensic Psychology to Architecture to Studio Arts, there are courses tailored to most students’ interests! After consulting with my Study Abroad Office at my home university, I found five courses at ISI that were approved for credit.

The five courses I’m taking this semester are:

  • Beginning Oil Painting: Imagery of Florence (VART 282)
  • The Florence Experience I (ITAL 101)
  • Abnormal Psychology (PSYC 432)
  • Cross-Cultural Psychology (PSYC 430)
  • Addiction: from Theory to Treatment (PSYC 440)

Beginning Oil Painting
This is my first time taking a visual arts course in college, and I absolutely love it. It is a fun class where we are encouraged to make mistakes on the canvas with our oil paints, and I enjoy learning the techniques oil painters have been using for hundreds of years. I have found the class to be open to all skill levels, and even students who have never painted before are able to create beautiful pieces with the professor’s guidance. We also had the opportunity to visit the Galleria di Arte Moderna di Palazzo Pitti. The art was absolutely breathtaking, and I enjoyed listening to the professor point out the progression of painting techniques throughout the centuries.

The Florence Experience I
All ISI students are required to take Italian (and for good reason!). Despite coming to Italy knowing only a handful of words I’ve picked up from popular media, my Italian 101 class has helped me gain confidence in navigating Florence and speaking with locals. Within the first class, I learned how to communicate my basic introduction in Italian! My class is quite dynamic as we go over new and old vocabulary, practice reading, speaking to one another, and asking questions to our professor. My class recently had a field trip to Piazza Sant’Ambrogio where we practiced our Italian with the vendors. At first, my group and I were nervous to ask for basic information like the cost of fruits even though we had learned the necessary vocabulary and grammar in class. However, by the end, we felt empowered to come back to do our next weekly grocery haul there! The market had a large selection of fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and other foods that I’m excited to try.

Abnormal Psychology
Abnormal psychology has been one of my most anticipated psychology classes. We learn about the study of behaviors and mental illnesses that are atypical. The content is taught in a lecture format with intermittent class discussion led by the professor. I find the class content not only interesting, but I enjoy hearing the contributions that students from other schools add to the discussion. We build thorough and comprehensive understandings of each diagnosis through the class discussions and lectures.

Cross-Cultural Psychology
Cross-cultural psychology is a course that is not common at many universities, so I was excited to see it offered at ISI! Where else would be better to learn about cross-cultural psychology than abroad? This class has many theoretical and practical readings that bolster lectures, and I enjoy learning about this field of psychology from an Italian practitioner. We are asked as international students to confront our own biases, judgements, and reflect on how we are perceived as foreigners in a culture that is new to us. The course goals that resonate the most with me are understanding how ethnocentrism can be an obstacle in intercultural interactions and communication as well as developing strategies to address cultural differences respectfully and effectively in both psychological research and real-world situations. This class uses a combination of individual and group assignments to test our mastery of the content.

Addiction Psychology
Addiction psychology is a field that I never considered learning about in the pursuit of my degree in psychology, but when I saw this offering, I instantly knew I wanted to take it. The course objectives include identifying the core features of addiction and its diagnostic criteria as well as describing the theories used to explain addiction. This professor also teaches my Abnormal Psychology class, so the course follows a similar format of lectures with intermittent discussions. This course includes an interesting assignment where each student keeps an ‘abstinence log’ where we are challenged to identify a behavior or substance that we wish to stop partaking in. It is meant to help extend empathy toward those in addiction recovery as well as allow us to apply what we have learned to our own personal attempt at abstinence.

Overall, even while balancing five classes, I found myself capable in handling the workload. To stay on top of my work, I keep track of deadlines and assignments in my personal planner. Even with this courseload, I’ve been able to explore Florence, travel, continue my hobbies, and keep up with my friends and family back at home!

If you have any questions about the course offerings or would like to view the syllabus, feel free to contact the ISI team. To receive credit back at my home university, I needed to be detail-oriented in my course selections. The ISI team understood that and was incredibly helpful in answering all of my questions. The academics make up just one part of your overall study abroad experience, but it is an important aspect to plan ahead for!