Emily Kearns is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2015, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A communications and business major at the University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in Florence this semester.
In her post below, Emily interviews fellow CAPA student Rachel Epner.
- - -
This week I interviewed one of my housemates, Rachel Epner. She is a junior studying Journalism at SUNY Purchase and has loved calling Florence her home for the semester!
EMILY KEARNS: What led to your decision to study abroad in Florence?
RACHEL EPNER: My dad majored in art history in college and always talked about how Florence is so well-known for their renaissance art and architecture. He couldn’t stop talking about it and when he heard that Florence was one of my options he said that I needed to go. I’m so intrigued by history and my dad made it so appealing for me to come here. Florence is essentially a living art history textbook and there seemed to be no better option for me.
EK: How has Florence matched with your expectations you had before coming here?
RE: Before coming to Florence, I didn’t have many expectations besides knowing that it was filled with beautiful architecture and amazing cuisine. Once I arrived, I learned that it was so much more! These cobblestone streets are filled with the best gelato I’ve ever tasted, delicious homemade pizza and cheerful locals who greet me with my much-needed espresso every morning. I expected the language barrier to be much more difficult, but I’ve found that a lot of people speak English and those who don’t are willing and eager to communicate using what they know.
Photo: Gelato by Robyn Lee
EK: Where have you traveled to outside of Florence? What has been your favorite place and why?
RE: So far I’ve been to Siena, San Gimignano, Switzerland, Germany, Amsterdam and Prague. My favorite city has been Berlin, Germany because it holds a whole different type of history than Florence does. I am very interested in World War II and the Holocaust and when you walk through the streets of Berlin, the history comes alive. It was very amazing and chilling to literally walk through the history that we all grew up learning about in school.
EK: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome since you’ve been abroad?
RE: I honestly haven’t run into many challenges yet, but the only “challenge” that I can think of would be the fact that not a lot is open on Sundays. As many would say that Sundays are a day of rest, I like to use Sundays to go out, walk around and get errands done, so it’s a big adjustment for me.
EK: What is your favorite thing about the CAPA program?
RE: The staff. I find them to be so caring, personal and helpful! They are always happy to help us, ask us about how we’re doing in school and get to know about the differences between life in America and Italy. They also help with travel plans and with finding local things for us to do. They’re always available and ready to speak to you any moment of the day and the best part is they want to talk with you and help with any problems or concerns that may arise.
EK: How do you believe you have changed since beginning your experience abroad?
RE: I believe that I was an independent person coming into this experience, but going into a city that I was not accustomed to and an apartment with six girls that I didn’t know, I had to learn how to be my own person and learn how to handle situations on my own. I’ve found out that I’m a natural born leader and I’ve had a lot of fun figuring out events to go to and travel plans for myself along with my group of friends.
EK: What are a few of your favorite things about Florence?
Cafe alla Mela - I love going in here every morning and being greeted by Donny, my favorite barista. He barely speaks English, so this is a great opportunity for me to practice my Italian.
Sant’Ambrogio Market - I love the fact that it’s the least touristy market and I always see the locals buying their fresh produce, meats and cheeses. It’s such a cool experience and I love living so close to it.
Boboli Gardens - It’s so beautiful and it’s like a slice of home for me. I like to relax at Central Park in NYC and Boboli Gardens is not only a nice change, but can definitely help to fill the void!
Il Pizzaiuolo - I’ve never had a better pizza than the one from here! It’s so nice to have a local restaurant that I could always go to and know it will be great each time.
EK: How have you tried to immerse yourself in the Florentine culture?
RE: During a Student Council meeting, I asked if there were any opportunities for me to get some experience in a homestay because I want to be more immersed in the Italian culture. The next day, Lorenzo (the CAPA Florence Resident Director) told me about a family who he knows that wants someone to teach their kids English, so I am now going to be babysitting/teaching these children English and then eating dinner with the family. Other ways I try to immerse myself into the culture are by using Italian any chance I can and by finding non-touristy things to do around the city.
Photo: Florence geometries by marco monetti
EK: What has been your most memorable experience since being abroad?
RE: The most memorable experience I’ve had here is coming back from Interlaken, Switzerland (our first weekend trip). The whole weekend my roommates and I were talking about how much we missed Florence and, as cheesy as it may sound, when we were walking back from the train station after our trip we walked past the Duomo and I started to tear up. It was the first time I saw the area around the Duomo so quiet, beautiful and not surrounded by tourists and it made me realize how much I love this city.
EK: What do you think you will miss most about Florence/your study abroad experience?
RE: Besides the relationships that I’ve made, I’m going to miss being a part of this new country, culture and way of life. It’s going to be very hard to go back to America as I have grown such a liking to my new customs that it’s become a routine. I can’t see my life changing so drastically again because I am so content with the way things have gone here.
Thanks Emily and Rachel!
Emily’s journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.