My study abroad experience at NYU in Florence still remains with me two years later as one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Although I did not attend NYU in New York, I had no problems applying to and being accepted into this program.
I chose to stay in a downtown apartment in Florence, rather than on campus or in a homestay. After speaking with students who chose the former options, I truly believe that this was the best decision.
Staying in a homestay in a great way to practice your Italian and see a local way of life. However, you also never know what situation you are about to enter. Your hosts may have young children who enter your room, despite warnings, or a baby that cries the entire night.
Staying on campus has its own set of disadvantages as well. Villa La Pietra is a good 20 minute bus ride from the center of Florence, or a 45 minute walk. The buses run much more infrequently at night, so late nights could turn expensive as the taxi bills add up.
My downtown apartment was an ideal setup. Situated on the same street at the Museo de' Accademia (where the statue of the David is held) I was one street off the Duomo (the giant church the sits as a central landmark) and smack in the center of the city's best sights. Not only were the apartments clean, but there it gave me an opportunity to meet so many different girls living in the building with me. To this day, some of these girls remain my close friends.
The actual program is really what you choose to make of it. I signed up for 3 classes, which is really the perfect amount to take. Everyone is required to take Italian 4 times a week, which is actually extremely helpful. I learned so much from these weekly classes, and all the Italian language teachers are a riot. If you have the opportunity to take Carlo's class, I highly recommend you do so. His humor is similar to Mr. Bean and my classmates and I spent most of our days cracking up at his antics.
In addition to Italian, I took Economics and The History of Italian Fashion. The latter was extremely hard to get into, and filled up in about ten minutes. There was a good reason. We took class weekend trips to Rome, visited the Ferragamo museum and had free access to a vintage market that sold fashion treasures at a quarter of the price.
Economics, and similar business and finance classes were actually very similar to those taught back in the NY campus. I had to study very hard for that class, but since I made that my only challenging course, it was still possible to enjoy Italy with gusto.
As for Florence itself, the city really sells itself. The best pasta and pizza you will ever eat, combined with a love for life New Yorkers are really missing creates an unmissable experience. Sit in the piazzas for hours sipping vino rosso (red wine), or try different cheeses at the mercato centrale (central market). Experience art in every possible form, from The Birth of Venus at the Uffizi, to the David at the Academia, to the street art painted all around the city on walls and sidewalks.
Some highlights of my Italian trip included watching the Fiorentina football team win a game, walking the footpath in Cinque Terre, tasting pesto in Genoa, the birthplace of pesto and incidentally Christoper Columbus. I went to Venice for Carnival, posed at the leaning tower of Pisa and threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain in Rome. I ate pasta and gelato every single day and never thought about my weight (incidentally, most people find that they do not gain much weight in Italy due to the appropriate portion sizes.)
The only challenges that I encountered on my study abroad experience, was not having enough time to travel to all the places I wanted to see.I made it to seven other countries, but never made it below Rome. Make sure to visit other countries on your trip, but don't make the mistake of neglecting your home city and country. Italy has so much to offer, but the beautiful Tuscan countryside, to the glamorous beaches in the South.
The city of Florence is alive with a love of food, art, beauty and life, and you will never forget your experience with NYU in Florence at Villa La Pietra.