(Photo by Joseph Mastando)

by Christine Urio

When moving to a new place, one can be curious about aspects such as money, travel, and living situations, especially if it’s on the other side of the globe.

That’s the case for a handful of Mount Saint Mary College (MSMC) students who will be studying abroad in Florence, Italy for four weeks this summer.

Some may be apprehensive about experiencing culture shock, for there are many daily luxuries that students take for granted, such as appropriate clothing, leisure activities, and school.

Because it is impossible to predict the weather, one of the most difficult tasks is packing.

Senior Amanda Giarrizzo studied in Florence last summer, and suggested bringing a mixture of clothing.

“You should bring both spring and summer clothes with you because you never know when the weather will change,” she said. “During the first weeks the weather was typical spring weather, not too cold and not too hot; however, toward the end of the trip the temperature took a drastic change and it jumped all the way up to 97 degrees.”

The temperature, as well as the weather changed throughout her stay.

“It was normally a mix of rain and sun,” said Giarrizzo. “The rain never lasted very long, it would be very sporadic. I would be walking somewhere and it would rain for about 10 minutes and then the showers would be done and the sun would be shining.”

She also advised to bring appropriate clothing for visiting museums and churches.

“Most if not all of these will not let you in unless your knees and shoulders are covered,” she said.

While abroad, many want to see as many sights as they can. Giarrizzo suggests using the travel agencies Bus2alps and Florence For Fun which have different trips planned out with tours, guides, and excursions all leaving from Florence.

“You should make good use out of these agencies,” she said. “It’s easier to go with a tour guide than by yourself. I was lucky enough to have traveled to many different cities: Cinque Terre, Amalfi Coast (Capri, Anacapri, Sorrento, Positano, and Pompeii), Chianti, Pisa, Rome, Siena, and San Gimignano.”

Junior Mary Boskosky, who is one of the students studying in Florence this summer,  said she is “excited to travel around Italy and make the most of each of the travel opportunities that the program presents [her] with and hopes to gain an appreciation for the Italian culture.”

Students also have the opportunity to earn six credits during their trip through CAPA, an international education organization.

“Everybody at CAPA is very friendly and helpful. They understand that this lifestyle and everything you are encountering in Italy is different to you,” Giarrizzo said. “Don’t be afraid to ask them questions. They would be more than happy to help.”

The courses offered at this location are art history, art, architecture, math, and science in Renascence Italy and Dominican spirituality.

“There were a lot of very memorable experiences that came from the math/science class,” she said. “We went wine tasting, climbed to the top of the Duomo, took a day trips to Pisa, Museo Galileo, an old pharmacy and a pasta making place. The work is definitely doable and purposeful.”

The art history class gives students the opportunity to visit and examine classic works of art by famous artists, sculptors, and painters.

“If you have an interest in visiting all of the different churches and learning about famous artists from the Renaissance time period I would suggest taking this course,” Giarrizzo said.

“I am most excited to take the classes in Italy because I feel that actually being in the place you are learning about is unforgettable and very intriguing,” said Boskosky.

While in Florence, students are thrust into the culture by living in rented apartments and walking to class.

Giarrizzo lived in a five person apartment which included three bedrooms, one and a half full bathrooms, a kitchen, and living room.

“My apartment was around the block from the Duomo and around the other block from the Academia, where the famous Statue of David is located,” she said. “Each apartment was in a different part of the city but majority were 10 to 15 minutes walking from school and each other.”

Although Giarrizzo said there are a variety of food venues and an infinite amount of gelato shops, students absorb the Italian atmosphere by walking to the market and buying groceries.

“A majority of the days, my apartment would eat something small from the grocery store for breakfast, buy lunch, and make dinner at night with food we bought from the grocery store,” she said.

This lifestyle is different from what students are familiar with while on a traditional campus.

“I believe that this experience is going to help me become more independent by forcing me to step out of my comfort zone into a brand new place and life,” Boskosky said.

Money is a prominent concern to students and varies in each situation, depending on how many places one visits, eats, and how many souvenirs are purchased.

“I would go to the ATM and take out money before every trip I went on,” said Giarrizzo.

Students are beginning to look forward to the trip and are excited to gain an insight to a new culture.

“I can’t wait to become immersed in the culture of Florence by eating their foods, and participating in Italian festivities,” said Boskosky.  “I hope to have success in being a Florencian (if that’s a word) for a month.”

“It’s definitely the experience of a life time! I am beyond grateful that I had the opportunity to study abroad in Florence, Italy,” said Giarrizzo.