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CIS Abroad - Florence, Italy

Academics

Students study at Florence University of the Arts, which is an English-speaking program. The college has four different buildings for their classes, which are located throughout the city. Most of the students who attend FUA are American, but there are a couple international students who attend as well. The main focuses are Hospitality, Fashion Design, and Photography. They offer courses in Italian, which helps acquaint students with the language. Computers and printers are available in two of the facilities. A list of schools and departments can be found here

City and Local Attractions

The city of Florence is relatively small- everything is within walking distance. The local attractions are numerous. The Duomo, the church in the center of the town, is a popular site. There, one can climb to the cupola and get a panoramic view of the city. There is the Uffizi, a world famous art museum containing works by Michelangelo, and other famous Renaissance artists. The Ponte Vecchio is another popular attraction. Besides the main tourist spots, there are hundreds of quaint shops, cafes, and piazzas to discover. Just outside the city are a number of vineyards that do wine tastings and tours, which is a large part of Italian culture. Bus tickets are less than 5 Euro round-trip.

Communication

Most students bought a cell phone while abroad. FUA offers rental phones, or students can buy their own pay as you go phones through Vodaphone and buy additional minutes as needed. Cell phones are very useful for communicating with roommates and friends.

Not all apartments have WiFi. Many students buy Internet USBs from the school. These are typically $250 for the semester, but students can bring the USB anywhere in the city for WIFI access. Another option is to do schoolwork, emailing, and Skyping at the FUA buildings, but the academic buildings close at 8 pm Monday-Thursday and at 5 pm on Friday.

Mail is delivered to the academic buildings.

Culture Shock

Italian culture is quite a bit different than American culture. At first, it was difficult to get used to stores closing in the middle of the day for siesta and then closing between 5 and 6 at night, especially if you had to go grocery shopping. Not being able to understand the language and communicate easily with people was also frustrating. However, after a few days, you adjust to the Italian way of life. Florence is a much slower-paced city than American cities, so I think that the reverse culture shock when I came home was worse than the culture shock I experienced upon my arrival in Italy.

Food

The food in Italy is a mix of pastas, breads, cheeses, and meats. There are basic foods such a pizza and pasta for picky eaters, but for the more adventurous eater, there are a number of delicious sauces, meats, and cheeses that Italy is known for. Gnocchi is a traditional Italian meal; it consists of small potato dumplings with either a pesto or tomato sauce on top.

In Italy, a meal consists of several courses. There is l’appertivo (appetizer), il primi (the first course, consisting of a pasta dish or soup), il secondi (the second course, consisting of meat or fish), il dolce (dessert), and an after dinner digestiv (liquor). When eating at a restaurant, there is usually a bread and cover charge, so don’t be surprised when there is an additional charge on the bill. Gratuity is added in the bill, so there is no need to tip. Italian meals can last up to an hour or two, with plenty of food and wine. Lunch usually begins at 1 pm and the prime dinner hours begin at 8 pm.

Housing

Apartment style housing is provided with other members of FUA. Apartments include cooking facilities, but not all have washers, and none have dryers. Most people hang dry their clothing, but there are local Laundromats that have dryers available. Most apartments have sheets and blankets, but it is a good idea to bring your own towel or set money aside to buy on when you arrive in Florence. Cleaning supplies, detergents, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc, can be purchased at grocery stores.

Money

Italian ATMs will accept American credit cards, but be sure to check with your bank before leaving to find out what the policy and charge is for withdraws. It is a good idea to take out large sums at once to avoid repeatedly paying withdraws fees. If you choose to do this, keep your money in a safe place. Do not carry large sums of money on your person. Be sure to make copies of your credit card (front and back) and passport in case they are stolen or lost. Not all stores/restaurants accept credit cards, so make sure you have cash is you plan on going out to eat.

Nightlife

The nightlife in Florence is very active. The legal drinking age in Italy is 18, so American students can legally go to nightclubs and bars. There are several clubs that are popular- Twice, 21, and Space. There are also American bars that play sports games and serve typical American bar food. Florence also has lounges, which are more laid back. The bars and clubs are located in safe areas, but it is still important to be alert when walking home at night and keep your belongings close to you.

Religious Life

Most Italians are Roman Catholic, but not all attend church. The closer you travel to Vatican City, the more religious people become.

Transportation

There are buses that run throughout the city, as well as to neighboring cities, but it is convenient just to walk. There is a train station in the city that goes throughout Italy as well as internationally.

Weather

Florence’s hottest months are July and August. Students studying in the fall semester can expect mild weather. Winter temperatures get down to around freezing, but it is rare for temperatures to drop too far below 32 Fahrenheit. November is typically the rainy month, so be sure to have an umbrella. Students in studying in the spring can expect chilly weather in the beginning and warmer weather in the spring. By May, temperatures are usually anywhere between 50 and 75 degrees.

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