The Florence Experience: Testimonials from Learning Italian as Abroad Students

At ISI Florence, we believe that immersing oneself in the Italian language is not just an optional addition to studying abroad in Italy – it’s an essential component. Our Italian language classes, aptly named ‘The Florence Experience’, cater to all proficiency levels, from Beginner to Advanced.

Every weekday, students enrolled at ISI dedicate an hour to Italian language learning, with classes running from Monday through Thursday. However, our commitment to language acquisition extends beyond the classroom. We offer several out-of-the-classroom activities designed to deepen students’ engagement with the local culture. From interviewing locals to bonding over volleyball with Italian university students, from exploring the hidden gems of Florentine neighborhoods to much more – we ensure that our students experience Italy in a truly immersive way.

We interviewed Professor Catia Santi, the Coordinator for the Italian Language Department at ISI Florence. She emphasized, “Studying the Italian language entails being immersed in Florentine and Italian life. Students are more than tourists; they’ll reside in Italy for nearly four months, and it’s crucial for them to perceive themselves as ‘temporary citizens‘ who observe and endeavor to comprehend our culture through language, as ‘Language is Culture and Culture is language’.

Gabriella Alfano, University of Maryland

“Learning Italian in Florence has been about cultural immersion and belonging. It has pushed me past my comfort zone to practice Italian outside the classroom, which has led to connections with incredibly supportive Italians who challenged me to continue improving my Italian. Overall, learning Italian has helped me feel connected to Florence and fostered a better study-abroad experience.” 

Sophia Amaral, University of Connecticut

“As an abroad student, I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to learn Italian while enrolled at ISI Florence. Learning Italian while studying in Florence has helped me immensely with familiarizing myself with the city and connecting to Italian culture. Language is a fundamental part of culture and to truly immerse yourself in the study abroad experience, it is important to know how to communicate with others. As a guest in this city, I believe it is important to educate yourself and try to learn something new every day. When you can communicate with locals, you can build relationships with others and learn more throughout your experience abroad. Language is ultimately the gateway to new experiences and allows you to learn more about the customs and norms of the society you are residing in.”

Audrey Boucher, University of Connecticut

“I have had the honor of being able to continue my studies of Italian here in Florence, as I had studied Italian in middle school and high school, but not since then. I’ve had the opportunity to rekindle my love of the Italian language while being here. I have been placed at a higher level for Italian in ISI, and although it has been challenging, I am glad I am putting myself outside of my comfort zone, and I have found myself thriving because of it! I think it is important for every abroad student to learn the language of the country they are studying in and try new things without being afraid because you can connect so quickly with your new environment, and it soon becomes a second home!”

Matthew Carone, University of Maryland

“During my time studying abroad in Florence, I have realized that it is important to learn Italian while studying here in Florence. Not only does it help international students to become more immersed within the Italian culture and the culture of the city of Florence, but it further enhances your academic learning experience. Moreover, it allows you to communicate with locals and form new relationships that will help you to make the most of your short time abroad!”

Francesca Terese De La Pasqua, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

“I think that the Italian program at ISI is wonderful, as a student you get amazing exposure to not only the language but also the culture. We have been able to meet and speak with many different Italians throughout the semester and I have learned so much more through these opportunities!”

Martina Gil Diaz, University of Virginia

“Because we are living in Florence for an extended period I believe that knowing basic Italian is essential if you want to integrate yourself into the community and experience the life of locals. Although many Italians speak English in Florence, there are still many who only speak Italian. For example, the local bakery near my apartment is run by an Italian lady who doesn’t speak English and I can communicate with her effectively with my elementary language skills. Additionally, my roommate and I signed up for weekly Pilates classes that are held only in Italian- I’ve been able to continue doing the physical exercise I love and make friends with locals! Further, some of the best restaurants I’ve eaten at and the cutest boutique shops I’ve found have only Italian-speaking employees. Without the ability to communicate with the people whose country I’ve been living in, my experience here would’ve been very shallow. I’m grateful that my Italian teacher here at ISI, Prof. Serena Baldini, has made my experience of learning Italian, fun, lighthearted, and interactive because it’s given me the confidence to push my comfort zone. I’m going to continue learning Italian in my senior year of college- I can’t wait to see what more I’m able to do with this new language.” 

Kyle Hunter, University of Maryland

“After studying in Florence for the past three months, I can say studying Italian was a major help in my everyday life. Before coming to Italy, I had no concept of Italian and was not able to hold any conversation. However, studying Italian for just three months has already provided me with a basis for conversation for any given scenario.” 

Arianna Jobst, University of Virginia

“I believe Italian is extremely important to learn while studying abroad in Florence. As Americans, we are lucky to speak a language that can oftentimes be universal, and many times people who speak other languages have learned English to accommodate for English-speaking tourism. I think it is a sign of respect to learn Italian and attempt to speak Italian with Italian-speaking natives (even though oftentimes I do not speak well) because they put the effort into learning English. Additionally, to study abroad in another country is to learn the culture of that country. You are missing out on a huge aspect of Italian culture if you do not learn the language or attempt to learn it.”

Victoria Keller, University of Virginia

“Studying Italian in Florence this semester has greatly enhanced my experience abroad. As my Italian conversational skills have improved, I have been able to immerse myself more deeply in the local culture. Now, even when I travel elsewhere, I find myself instinctively speaking Italian. I am appreciative of what I have learned throughout my experience at ISI, and I feel that it has given me a more profound cultural understanding and a broader perspective on the world as a whole.” 

Patrick Realyvasquez, University of Virginia

“Learning Italian is valuable for so many reasons. It allows for an instant connection with locals and could even get you out of a pinch like the time I got a bus ticket for the wrong day and talked my way into getting a free ride (I don’t recommend trying this). Most importantly though, speaking Italian lets you have a deeper and more meaningful experience of life in Italy!”

Maggie Shuffler, University of Virginia

“Learning Italian has enhanced my study abroad experience immensely. Interacting with locals in their native language has been a unique learning experience that has heavily enriched my understanding of Italian culture.”

Livia Spino, Pennsylvania State University 

“Coming from an Italian family, I dreaded every Sunday dinner at my Nanni and Nonno’s house for the sole reason that I would have to sit at the dinner table and listen to my entire family speak Italian as I struggled to follow along. I had only ever picked up just the basics of Italian being surrounded by my parents and grandparents whose first language was Italian. Additionally, my Nonno became deaf at a young age and only ever knew Italian since he grew up in Sicily and came to America at a later age. I always struggled to talk to him since he knew as much English as I did Italian. So, when I had the opportunity to study abroad in Florence for a semester, I knew I would have the opportunity to finally learn Italian by truly being immersed in a new challenge. Learning Italian while studying abroad is extremely important because it helped me easily integrate myself into the culture and lifestyle. I often communicate with locals to practice and enhance my Italian which has made me feel a part of the amazing community in Florence. I also feel more connected to my heritage and my family’s past. But most importantly, I now feel comfortable talking to my grandparents in their native language, and every phone call I make to them, I get better and better, and they get prouder and prouder.”

Libby Trainum, University of Virginia

Learning Italian while studying abroad in Florence was essential for immersive cultural experiences. It enabled many meaningful and fun interactions with locals, enhanced my understanding of Italy’s rich history and arts, and fostered personal growth, both academically and socially. Learning the language enriched my daily life, brought me and my roommates closer as we practiced together, and overall made my semester abroad more rewarding and impactful.”

These testimonials reflect just a glimpse of the profound impact that studying Italian at ISI Florence can have. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced learner, our immersive approach ensures that your time in Italy is not just educational, but truly transformative.


The course offers students an interdisciplinary experience in language learning.