Although studying abroad is all about exploring new cultures, travelling and eating ridiculously good food, it is called “studying” abroad for a reason. Yes, I do go to school here, but school in Florence is completely different from school at UConn for a number of reasons.
First off, school is less rigorous. Many people who study abroad opt to take the bare minimum of classes, so only 12 credits by UConn’s standards (other schools ask for more). Students also tend to make one of their classes, usually their hardest or the one they care about the least, pass/fail. Some schools, although unfortunately not UConn, allow all classes taken abroad to be pass/fail or, alternatively, allow students to pick or choose which credits transfer. Coursework is also much easier in general. The staff here understand that students are here to explore Europe and goof off, so homework is incredibly manageable. Italian homework, specifically, consists of a few middle-school-esque workbook problems a night. There are no all-nighters here.
Although classes aren’t as hard, they honestly do teach students more than certain UConn courses. Because a lot of classes, like history of Florence and history of food and culture in Italy, aim to teach students more about the city they’re staying in, students tend to absorb more of what they’re learning and apply it to their day-to-day life as they walk around the city. The Ponte Vecchio takes on a new meaning when you realize it was partially built for Hitler’s visit to Florence. Just as bakeries take on a new meaning when you find out they sell delicious things like pan di ramerino and almond biscotti, after trying them in your history of food class. Italian is the best example of this, since the fact that Florentines are snobby toward anyone who doesn’t speak Italian is a great incentive to learn the language. “Vorrei un cappuccino,” for instance, has saved the caffeine-supported lives of many UConn students abroad.
Another interesting difference is that you can’t exactly pick your own schedule here. At UConn, many students choose specific classes due to a combination of interest and schedule preference. So early birds who like knocking out their school days before lunch and night owls who prefer classes after noon can only get the schedules that suit them best. It’s not like that here. When students applied to ISI Florence, they wrote down the classes they were most interested in taking and ISI plopped them down in those classes wherever there was room. This meant that when students arrived here and found out their classes were all way too early or late or scattered across the day, they made monstrous lines trying to fix their schedules at student services. In the end, though, almost everyone ended up getting here weirdly early and leaving as late as 6 p.m. for class every day. In my case, I come here shortly after sunrise and leave here around sunset two days a week. It’s not super convenient, but at least we all have Fridays off and little to no homework at night!
So yes, I do go to school in this country. But, honestly, it’s more of a nice, refreshing break from the stress of UConn than I expected. For anyone who desperately needs some time off and would like 60 degree weather in February, ISI Florence is definitely the place for you.
Rebecca Maher is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.