International student groups in Florence

International student groups in Florence

Independent organizations help international students find fun and friendship in Florence.

Mon 29 Jan 2024 9:59 AM

Moving to a new city, or even a new country, as a young person means embracing the challenges and rewards the experience will present to you. Inevitably, it will mean acclimatizing to the environment, establishing a new routine and finding a new group of friends, which is easier said than done. Upon arrival in Florence, I was full of excitement for what was to come, alongside some nervousness about the obstacles that lay ahead, and I felt at a loss for some structure to ease the settling-in process, as an international student.

Initially, I was lucky that much of what Florence offers aligns with my interests. Urban sketching groups and attending life drawing sessions appealed to my creative side and, to my surprise, I found the motivation to join a running group. These in place, I had the hobbies box ticked, but was not often with other students or people my own age in a social capacity. Student life comes with plenty of demands, but part of the fun is in sharing the experience with others who are going through the same thing. Despite this, the student experience can easily become isolating, especially when social opportunities within university institutions are rarer than you might expect them to be. After some research (and trial and error), these opportunities could be found in a number of student organizations, which are independent from the universities, and cater to the needs of young internationals in Florence.

An important part of moving somewhere new is finding a rhythm, and recurring dates in the diary certainly help. Every week, regular events provide structure and a chance to meet people. Tuesday evening language exchanges with people from all over the world and Thursday board game nights gave me something to rely on, as well as a chance to catch up with existing friends. Rather than being embarrassed to arrive alone, everyone is more interested in leaving with new friends, hopefully having beaten them at a few card games or having been taught how to introduce yourself in Czech.

No-one moving to a different country or city does so without the desire to understand their surroundings. In Florence, culture practically oozes out from between the cobblestones, but there is more to delve into when accompanied by someone who knows where to look and is considerably more fun with a curious group of like-minded individuals. City tours, museum visits and events, like cooking workshops or wine tastings, make the local culture accessible. These are ways that see you doing exactly what it was you came here for, without being responsible for any of the organization.

Undoubtedly, travel is on the cards. A new sphere of the world is suddenly within reach and not to see it would be a missed opportunity. Day trips and weekend jaunts are frequently scheduled to cities across Italy, complete with a full agenda of activities at student-friendly prices, transport usually included. The volunteer organizers are largely made up of locals that know which spots to hit and where to find unique experiences in destinations such as the Cinque Terre, Venice and Naples.

Speaking without any direct experience of them (I’m an old soul at heart), club nights are on almost every week and dot around several spots throughout the city, where entrance to the clubs and drinks are often discounted if you show one of the group’s membership cards. Each group also boasts partnerships with local and international businesses to provide deals on eating out, transport and travel. The small amount paid for a membership, costing between 5 and 15 euro, will be repaid in no time through the savings scored at venues throughout Florence.

Student organizations in Florence

For any new international student taking part in an Erasmus placement or otherwise, your first port of call should be the social media accounts of International Community Network (@icfirenze_erasmusfirenze), Erasmus Student Network Florentia (@esn_florentia) and AEGEE Firenze (@aegeefirenze_erasmusfirenze). All events and excursions are advertised here in advance, and links to the website are provided for further information, as well as the links to join WhatsApp group chats for updates about the events happening each week.

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