College. That’s one thing that students around the country are waiting for in their final years of high school. Two years ago, I was a high school senior that was ready to make that jump into college and start the next chapter of my life. I couldn’t wait to get involved in Marist activities, meet new people and prepare for my career. I was counting down the days to freshman move in when I got that golden ticket of sorts in the mail. “Spend your Freshman Year in Florence Italy” the letter said. I asked my parents about the program, known as the Freshman Florence Experience (FFE) and weighed the benefits. At first, I was unsure about participating. While it was an offer of a lifetime, I had a few doubts. I had never been away from home, my family and friends for more than a week. How would I survive in a different country that used a foreign language and had a vastly different culture? As I thought about it more, the idea grew on me. After all, how many people can say that they spent their first year of college in the “Cradle of the Renaissance?” I couldn’t pass up the offer so I committed to attending the program.
I have to admit, it was one of the best decisions of my life. I loved living in Florence and it has become one of favorite places to be. I would give anything to go back, even for a day. I loved the Italian culture and settled into the city with ease. Our apartment building was in the heart of the historic center of the city and was just minutes from numerous landmarks and classes. Being a history lover, it was great to see so much history around me. Walking on the same streets that Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Lorenzo de’ Medici walked just astounded me. One of my favorite classes that I took was Florence’s Four Quarteri, or Quarters, that taught us about the history of the commune. It was taught by Marcello, a professor who was raised in Florence. We would spend the first half of class talking about the history and in the second half; he would actually take us to the places he discussed. It was fun learning about famous Florentines, the buildings and their stories. He would take us into a chapel down a back alley and it would have a fresco by Michelangelo. It was that type of thing that made me so impressed with Florence. Even though they are getting more modernized, they take pride in and protect their precious history. The food was also wonderful in the city and was better than anything I ever tasted. It surprised me how you could always find a fantastic dinner at reasonable prices. Oh and the gelato is to die for in Florence. If you ever go, head over to Festival Del Gelato on Via del Corso and get their Fruti di Bosco!
Spending the year abroad also allowed me to travel around Europe. I went to numerous places including London, Dublin, Paris, Rome, Venice, Bologna, Cologne, and Dusseldorf. It was easy and cheap to get around due to bargain flights through Easyjet and Ryan Air. When I went to Paris with my parents our flight was 28 Euro each! It was great to not only see Italy, but other countries in Europe. I got to cross a lot of things off my bucket list.
The entire experience was just amazing. I feel so fortunate to be able to study abroad, especially so early on in my college career. Whenever I talk to other students I always tell them to go abroad for a semester. Florence is such a beautiful city and can offer something to everyone. It has countless priceless art pieces in the Uffizi and Academia galleries, history around every corner and even a great nightlife. (It’s not the same as the Jersey Shore crew made it out to be, trust me.) It allowed me to mature into a college student because I had to adjust to a completely new lifestyle. In the end, it was a great experience and I hope I can return someday. Who knows? Maybe I’ll see you at News Café and we can share a cappuccino!
Class of ‘14
Marist In Italy – http://www.marist.edu/admission/florence/
Freshman Florence Experience – http://www.marist.edu/admission/ffe/index.html?type=slashffe/
Commune of Florence Website – http://en.comune.fi.it/