My educational experience at CAPA's Florence program exceeded my expectations in all aspects! The professors were wonderful and excellent teachers, who understood all that abroad students are going through and excited by. The course work was engaging and often very useful to know while living abroad. Anytime I or another student had a question regarding abroad life or the subject being discussed, my professors were always excited to answer. So many of the classes focus on real-world examples, which certainly make class time more interesting.
During my time abroad, the CAPA staff were extremely encouraging and helpful. These people were the go-to resources for any questions regarding abroad life, travel, or "how would I say this..." inquiries. Often times, during breaks, I loved chatting away with Valentina, who worked the front desk. She was so sweet and caring. Valentina kept students updated on the fun programs CAPA would throw and answered any questions about the Italian language. All of the staff knew Florence extremely well, so that was such a plus with moving to an unfamiliar and big city.
My roommates and I loved our apartment. With just a 3-minute walk to the Ponte Vecchio, our apartment was in an excellent location, with proximity to beautiful sites and 5-star restaurants. We always felt safe in Florence and had a great landlord that took care of any maintenance issues in the apartment (there were only 1 or 2). With the CAPA program’s central location, one never has to walk more than about 10-15 minutes to get to all the major sites in Florence. I loved that this program’s classes were all in one building and not scattered around the city.
Everyone was super friendly in Florence. There was not one time that I felt unsafe or uncomfortable with the locals. CAPA staff are the best resources for any questions about culture shock or cultural/social integration. CAPA even provided a night program to discuss culture shock and ways we could combat it. That program was necessary in my cultural integration to Florence!
The best thing I gained from my experiences in Florence was the understanding of exploration's value. It is so important for Americans to see the other side of the world, how people of different cultures interact, and how these different people live. Every little aspect of my abroad life was worthwhile. I learned to ask more questions, venture out, and explore things that interest me.
I loved the pre-departure tips and checklist that were provided by my university. I would encourage anyone studying abroad to carefully ready over these materials, and search for blogs/articles on your city of study. This resources can be helpful to envision what your daily life will be like.
There's no doubt about it - living abroad can be very difficult...at first. From what I have learned, the best advice I can give is to stay busy and really push yourself into new, safe situations. I loved exploring. It allowed for me to meet and befriend locals that I otherwise would not have met. Within 2 weeks of my time in Florence, I felt as though I had a good understanding of what Florentines are like and how I should carry myself. The CAPA staff will encourage students to ask any questions regarding the "do's and don't's" in Florence. Definitely take them up on this! Doing so will greatly reduce your vulnerability to intense culture shock.