My time in Florence has been the most incredible experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity! Looking back there are so many things I have had the chance to experience that I simply never would have thought possible. The whole trip was just above and beyond anything I could have expected.
The Food: My goodness if you don’t love pasta and pizza in Italy you never will! It is simply incredible and so so cheap! I even got to try the famous pesto pizza in Cinque Terre which was an amazing feed between hiking trails. Everyone got vouchers to local restaurants too which was so good to help find our feet in a town where restaurants can easily overcharge unknowing tourists (I think we all fell victim to this at some point). We also developed great relationships with the owners who fed us every day, it was sad to say goodbye to them!
The Sites: Not someone who usually enjoys large tours, museums or art history, you’d think I wouldn’t be interested in most of the day trips. But it was the exact opposite. I really enjoyed everything we saw. The churches are simply stunning and waking up to the Duomo in the centre of town every day was so beautiful. The tours allowed us to learn so much interesting history from this ancient country with so much fascinating stories to tell. We also were able to see smaller towns away from the tourist trail not something that everyone gets to see!
The Volunteering: Our days with Misericordia were so rewarding. We got the opportunity to mix with the locals, many who didn’t speak a word of English and many who did. The language barrier was was funny and frustrating at the same time but led to many interesting stories none the less. It was also incredible to be allowed into many peoples homes to see how the Italians really live. It was so interesting to find that most houses were in buildings 5 stories high with no elevators. You can see how this would prove difficult for the elderly, much of our work was assisting them down the stairs when heading to appointments.
The People: Study Abroad has given me the greatest opportunity to meet so many wonderful people from ACU all over the country. We have experienced some amazing things together and we have made some friendships that will last long past our time in Florence. We also had an incredible time meeting so many others including many new friends from America who helped run and organise so much of the course including not only classes but also our day tours and a few fun activities throughout the month. They were all nothing short of amazing and so supportive and helpful.
Coming home: Back to reality as it were it’s quite daunting, the closer I got to the end of my time the more stressed I got about coming home. But now I’m back in the swing everything gets a little easier. The reunion with family and friends it’s totally worth the long flight. But the longer I’m home the more I realise I’ll definitely be travelling again. That’s exactly what study abroad has given to me: the confidence to continue travelling and exploring the world and the education to see these amazing cultures and all my experiences in a new light.
The Experience: Study Abroad is so different to any travel I have done before. You are completely out of your comfort zone in a new environment with new people. But it is so different because you really get the chance to emerge yourself fully in culture and explore the amazing area. I am so thankful for my time in Florence and I will treasure the experience for the rest of my life. You realise that not everyone has the chance to study abroad and so I really encourage anyone who has the desire to travel or challenge themselves to apply for any study abroad program. ACU is simply amazing and so supportive in helping you get there and making the most of it. I am so so happy I took the chance and everything worked out amazingly. Everyone considering exchange should definitely apply – you will only regret it if you don’t!