Florence: Nott just your average term abroad

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By Tess Skoller

I am currently sitting and writing this article on a bus traveling from Sorrento, Italy back to Florence, where I am studying abroad for the spring term.

If that doesn’t make you jealous, I suggest that you continue reading to hear about some of  the adventures that I have had over the last few weeks.

At the end of March, 19 Union  students arrived in Florence to study Italian and Florentine architecture, and to take a class created by Professor Charles Steckler of the theater department, entitled “Images and Notations in Passing.”

The core purpose of Steckler’s course is to better document our time here in Florence so that we can truly immerse ourselves into the culture while simultaneously observing and reacting to all the new sights and sounds that surround us.

Everyone is constantly writing in the journals that Steckler gave to us before our departure.  It has become second nature to collect a business card from a restaurant or a pamphlet from a museum that we visit so we can paste the evidence into our journals alongside the records of our experience.

Being based in Florence, we are especially lucky because we have access to some of the most amazing cities in Italy as well as all of Europe.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, I was traveling in Sorrento as well as Positano, Capri and Pompeii for the weekend.

This was all just a five-hour bus ride away, and we were able to see some of the most beautiful scenery Italy has to offer.

What makes this program even more unique is that we have all been placed in home stays with Italian families to better understand the culture, in addition to giving us a chance to practice our Italian.

We have Italian class everyday and even though I cannot really hold a conversation, I can piece together phrases so people can kind of understand me.  Florence is a very touristy city, so there are many people who speak at least a little bit of English, but we all make the effort to practice our Italian as often as we can.  Our hosts also make sure we practice our Italian at the dinner table every night.

It was an accomplishment when my roommate was able to ask, “please pass the bread” one night.

We frequently have mini-quizzes at the table about how to say things like fork, knife and spoon.

In turn we help our host practice her English and keep an ongoing list of what certain words mean in Italian and English that we keep attached to the fridge.

It was a harsh realization the other day that I am halfway done with my time in Florence, but there is still so much to look forward to and places within the city that I have yet to explore.

Florence has one of the richest histories of any city and with every corner you turn, you’re likely to run into an architectural wonder.

Walking past Brunelleschi’s Duomo every morning is an experience that I still cannot get over.  Even though the Nott Memorial is beautiful in its own right, somehow it doesn’t match up to the sensation of seeing the red tiles of the top of the dome.

Coming abroad was the single best decision that I have made during my time at Union.

Even though every now and then I miss certain things about home, I look outside at the beautiful city that surrounds me and I take a walk around to explore a little bit more and magically, my homesickness disappears.

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