Studying abroad with a provider like ISA is great for students who need that little extra boost of support to get abroad. Their staff is lovely and kind and want to make you feel like you're at home and comfortable.
COURSES: Take classes that are fun and exciting that you wouldn't be able to get at your home campus. I studied Cultural Psychology, Gardens of Love, Italian Language, and Wine Appreciation. Yes, all of them transferred back to my home campus at BHSU with a little creativity!
EXPLORE: Purchasing a bicycle was the best way for me to experience as much of Florence as I could. I was able to seek out the roads less traveled on the outskirts of the city center. This is also an important hobby to me back home, so it was an important way for me to feel like I could enjoy my hobbies, get outside of the city center, and work off all that food I was eating.
HOMESTAYS: Although you will make life-long friends with the other American students, try to avoid spending all your time with other study abroad students in your program. It is important to step outside your comfort zone and meet local friends. They will be the ones to help you grow in your language abilities, experience true cultural activities, and enjoy some of the best local eats. Homestays are the perfect way to set yourself up for success. Some of my best memories were at my home with my Italian family.
SAFETY: Florence is a superb city for safety and wellness as a first-time independent traveler. Just be sure to watch your alcohol intake and be responsible. Many of the new students want to enjoy drinking legally for the first time, and it was a little scary to see some of the situations intoxicated students put themselves in. It's always important to be alert and cognizant. Also, remember that as visitors, we are ambassadors of our home countries. Represent yourself and your country well.
FOOD: The food scene is absolutely incredible. I ate and learned to cook some of the best food of my life in Florence. Regional ingredients based on history and geography of the people is such an important aspect to understanding culture. Parmesan, pesto, chianti, fresh olive oil, prosciutto, truffles, balsamic... are you kidding me?!?!
What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
This was my first chance to eat organ meats like tongue, livers, hearts, etc.. Although I was eager to try it, at first it made my stomach a little queasy, but I kept trying it again and again until I developed a comfort to it. Now, I find that organ meat can be some of the most flavorful and delicious parts of an animal. Don't be afraid to dive in headfirst to something that might make you feel a little squeamish, and then don't be afraid to try and try again if at first you don't think you like it. Food is such an important way of connecting with people and willingness to try cultural dishes is an important gesture to your hosts.