Halfway Through GBI Florence 

It’s been just over three weeks since I started my study abroad experience, and there is so much to tell! Florence is indescribably amazing, super busy and filled with tourists, and there is always something new to try. My new university is called CAPA, and there aren’t many cultural differences between this school and Pitt. Both of my classes, Renaissance Art and Exploring and Analyzing the Global City, are taught in English. However, some differences exist between CAPA classes and those at Pitt. CAPA is very small (only one building with a handful of classrooms) and my classes are 2.5 hours long (with no air conditioning!). In both of my classes, we do outside of the classroom trips such as walks and museum and church visits. These classes are experientially based, but there are still lectures like I am used to. I enjoy my classes and the style in which they are taught, and I like that they are focused on Florence and its history. When we learned about Donatello’s bronze David in class and then went to see it at the Bargello in person, for example, it made me appreciate both the class and the art. Without my Renaissance art history class, I would not know the context and history behind each piece of art, and I am grateful that my professor takes us through the museums and churches, delving into each piece and providing lots of details. This also applies to my Exploring course, as my professor teaches us how to extract the most from our experience, such as using all of our senses while we walk around the city and venturing outside of the Center City. 

I didn’t experience much culture shock when I first got to Florence; however, there are many differences between Florence and the United States that required adjustments. The scarcity of air conditioning during very hot months means a lot more sweating than I am used to. We keep our windows open in the apartment (especially at night when it cools down), but that has its consequences. Since there are no screens on the windows, I wake up with a plethora of mosquito bites. Florence also does not have dryers, so we must dry our clothing on drying racks. We have to pay for water at restaurants (also, it is not customary to tip) and often have to pay to use public restrooms. The grocery stores are much different and filled with a lot less snacks (no Cheez-Its or Goldfish!); people eat much healthier and fresher food here. Adjusting to these changes has not been that difficult, as there are many aspects of the city and culture that make up for the fact that I don’t have AC or a dryer. The food is amazing and affordable; there are museums and historical buildings at every corner; there is plenty of shopping and lots of markets to explore. 

I live in an apartment right in the center of everything with six roommates, five of whom go to Pitt and one that goes to college in South Carolina. I knew half of my roommates before the program, but I met the other three when I arrived. I’m in a triple room with my friends Marlo and Bridgette, and it is much more spacious than I anticipated. I love our apartment, and I have enjoyed eating out, attending class, and traveling with all of my roommates. 

The first half of the program has been jam-packed with adventures, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’ve been maximizing my time abroad, trying every restaurant, visiting every museum, going to every market that I possibly can. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to live in Florence and study here, and I have already learned so much in such a short amount of time.

– Alexis Hammer