First impressions

A student’s take on Florence

Kirsten Hills
April 3, 2014

Every year thousands of students come to Florence to study. The move is often the first time abroad for many of them, so just what do they think when they arrive in the city? What are the best ways to feel at home for a semester or longer? And what advice can students give to others who may be coming to study here, too?


Any study abroad scheme is an experience of mixed emotions. While, on the one hand, it offers new and thrilling challenges, it is also entering new and daunting territory. Many students leave their countries without knowing what to expect from their new surroundings.


We asked three students at the Lorenzo de’ Medici Institute for their initial thoughts about Florence. All three said they had initially found it difficult to navigate around the city due to Florence’s old layout, very different from the American grid system. Roads here may change names unexpectedly. Likewise, the city has a confusing dual numbering system for buildings, a series of red numbers for businesses and generally blue or black ones for residences. But while the layout of the city may not be straightforward, students find its size convenient. ‘Everything closes early, but it’s so close together, you don’t have to take a bus or car,’ says Xavier. He adds that ‘arriving here I was just thinking “wow” all the time. I felt like I was living my life in a movie.’


The students also commented that people are helpful. Even if they don’t speak perfect English, people on the street are quite often willing to help you find where you need to go.


Sarah said, ‘Not knowing the language, obviously it’s nerve-wracking, but once I got here it was fine, and it’s made me more confident about trying to speak Italian.’


The students also commented on how being in Florence has helped their learning. Emily is taking a 'pairing food and wine class' at Lorenzo de’ Medici, and she commented on how she could not have experienced such a class anywhere else.


We also asked Facebook friends of The Florentine for their comments. One former student said, ‘Florence took my breath away; I thought why is there not enough time in life?’ Another commented, ‘I want to move there some day for good, and live the rest of my life there.’


So it’s clear that even if students do struggle with adjusting to a new life here, the challenge is all part of the experience, and it’s one that will remain with them forever.


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