I am studying abroad on the GBI: Florence program through CAPA, The Global Education Network. I take two classes that each have three two and a half hour classes per week from Monday-Thursday. CAPA has one building with many classrooms inside which is nice to have one central location. My two classes are Renaissance Art History and Analyzing and Exploring the Global City: Florence. In my Renaissance Art History class, I have a mixture of lecture-based classes and site visits. In lecture classes, I go to the CAPA building for class where I have a lecture from my professor. I am not used to having classes for two and a half hours because at Pitt my longest classes have been an hour and fifteen minutes. It has been a challenge to stay focused for such a long period of time, but we are given a break in between which allows me to stay focused the entire time. For site visits, we visit historic places around Florence varying from churches to museums to palazzos to see the artworks and works of art by artists I am currently learning about in class. This week, I saw Donatello’s bronze statue of David at the Bargello Museum, and my next assignment is to go to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, which has one of the biggest art collections in Europe, to look at works of art and find one that speaks to my interests for a presentation. For Analyzing and Exploring the Global City: Florence, I also have a mix of lecture-based classes and walk and work days where we walk around the city of Florence. We do site visits to different neighborhoods to truly understand the entirety of Florentine culture. This past week, we visited the Sant’Ambrogio food market, and I was able to try traditional Florentine dishes such as Lampredotto.
My classes in Florence are different from my classes I have taken at Pitt because my classes at Pitt are solely lecture based and we do not leave the classroom. I enjoy taking time outside of the classroom to learn about the city and history when it is right in front of me. My classes are also much smaller than at Pitt, having around twenty students per class, but I am enjoying smaller classes since I am here for six weeks. Due to being in Florence for six weeks rather than an entire semester, the classes can be intense with material and work, but I have been able to find balance to efficiently keep up to date with deadlines.
For my housing, I am living in an apartment with six roommates, so there are seven of us total. I was nervous to have so many roommates because I have never lived with that many people before, but my roommates and I get along great. Having so many roommates has been an awesome way to make friends while abroad, and it is a great way to find people to explore Florence with. My daily walk to the CAPA building is about 20 minutes, but I don’t mind it because I get to see the beautiful Arno River, architecture, and coffee shops on the way! In Italy and across Europe, it is typical to not have air conditioning, so I have been learning to open all the windows in my apartment in the morning to ventilate it for the day. For the most part, the neighborhood that I am in is quiet, despite having many neighbors. Outside, there is a square nearby full of restaurants and shops where I enjoy getting gelato at night and watching the sunset. Through CAPA, student housing is spread out over the city of Florence, but other students are just a short walk away.
It has been a challenge facing culture shock, since daily life in Florence is much different than life in the United States. I have found it helpful to call home to my family and friends to help with being homesick. It is intimidating to go to the grocery store and not know how to speak or read Italian, but the locals are very friendly and appreciate when I try to speak Italian and help me find what I need. I am becoming very familiar with the city and have found myself looking at the map less when trying to navigate my way around. I have learned so much about Florence in my first three weeks, and I am excited to continue learning!