Patrick Scally studied abroad in Florence last Spring and, through his CAPA International Education classes, unleashed his inner Michelangelo, developed meaningful friendships and explored his new city. Below he talks about the Italian language, the importance of exploring through taste and smell and what it was like to return home to the US after a semester abroad.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
PATRICK SCALLY: My name's Patrick Scally and I grew up all over the world but my family settled in Colorado Springs, CO. I'm a senior at Indiana University majoring in Journalism with a minor in Political Science. I studied abroad in Florence with CAPA International Education during the Spring of 2013.
CW: Why did you choose to study abroad in Florence specifically? Think back to the moment you arrived and share your first impressions of your host city.
PS: I chose Florence because I had taken three semesters of Italian and needed to travel abroad to Italy to complete my studies. CAPA was the perfect fit because it had the classes I needed along with all the amenities I wanted. I remember stepping off the plane in Florence and even though it was raining, I don't think I had ever been more excited. Two CAPA employees were at the airport, helped us find a cab, and the next thing we knew we were flying through the streets of Florence on our way to our new apartments. The cab may have been a little terrifying, but seeing my new apartment was the best experience ever. I've never been more excited; it was a lot to take in, but it was amazing.
CW: What surprised you most and why? How did your view of the city change from the time you arrived to the time you left?
PS: When we first came to Florence it was overwhelming, but as we began to see the city and experience everything. The city really showed everything it truly had to offer. Perhaps one of the best feelings was as we lived in Florence for longer and longer we really began to know the city. We had our favorite places to go, shops and restaurants where the people knew us, and the best places to go for a drink after class or grab a snack.
CW: One worry for students heading to Italy is the language barrier. What was your level of Italian like before you arrived? Do you feel that the language was an issue for you? If so, how did you overcome this barrier?
PS: I had taken three semesters prior to my trip, but I was still worried about the language barrier. When I got to Italy though I realized how easy it was to pick up Italian just by normal interactions with people. I also realized how willing people were to help if I just TRIED to speak Italian to them. Florence is also a very global city where many people speak and understand English if you really do need help.
CW: Talk a bit about CAPA academics. What were your favorite classes and why? Did you participate in any MyEducation events?
PS: I took Photojournalism, Italian Cinema, Italian 4, Watercolour, and Political and Economic History of Europe in the 20th Century. All of my classes counted for credits at my university and were super helpful to my major. Professors at CAPA are awesome, but none are better than Jamie who teaches watercolour. I had never thought I would be able to paint at all, but Jamie brought out the true Michelangelo in me, or so I like to think.
CW: Close your eyes and think back to your time in Florence. When you hear each of the following, what first comes to mind?
Taste: The number 7 from Antico Noe sandwich shop, YUMMMMM!
Smell: A great bottle of Tuscan red wine shared with friends while watching sunset at Piazza Michelangelo.
Sight: The marketplace when everyone is bartering for fresh fruits and vegetables.
Texture: Trying on leather jackets at one of the many leather stalls.
Sound: Opening the windows to the apartment and hearing church bells, people yelling, the zipping of Vespas, and the sounds of the city.
CW: How have you felt since you returned to the US? Talk about re-adapting to life back home.
PS: I did not have reverse culture shock, but I have intensely missed Florence and the friends I've made there. The friends I made in Florence are some of the most intense and strong friendships I've ever had even though we'd only known each other a couple months. We've already made plans to visit each other and hopefully visit Florence again together!
CW: What skills did you learn while abroad that will help you in your future career?
PS: I would love to work abroad in my career and traveling really taught me how to adapt in a new place. I really learned what I need to do to move somewhere I'd never been, make all new friends, and live completely on my own. I really found my sense of adventure and wanderlust in Italy and I wouldn't trade that for anything.
CW: Share your favorite restaurant in Florence. Also, what was your favorite Florence discovery that other students should be sure not to miss? Why?
PS: My favorite restaurant in Florence would have to be Aqua al 2. Insanely expensive, but insanely delicious; everyone should try their steak sampler before they leave. A religious experience for sure. The one thing, which I have said before, that everyone MUST do while in Florence is get a bottle of wine, a couple friends, and some gelato and hike up to the Piazza Michelangelo at sunset for the best views of the city and an absolute Italian experience. Explore as many restaurants and food stands as possible because your taste buds don't forget!