In this week's post, Daniel goes through 7 questions that may come up when you consider studying abroad. From finding the right time in your college career to make that leap to integrating yourself within a global city and its local culture, he shares his strategies, experiences, concerns, and successes.
1. How did you decide what country you wanted to study abroad in?
So the way I decided where I wanted to study began by first looking at the list of locations offered by Pitt Business. Then I took some time to myself and really contemplated what country I would love to spend the second semester of my junior year in. Even more than this, it was important for me to think about what culture I was interested in and wanted to dive into.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Beyond the actual location, there are many factors to consider when deciding where to go (i.e. cost, activities offered, courses and credits, other travel opportunities, language, and so on).
Other than this I would recommend talking to your school’s Study Abroad office about their most popular programs to narrow your search from there.
2. What was the biggest difference between your expectations of Florence and the actual city?
I’m going to be honest, the biggest shock I got when getting here was how cold it was. Now it was nothing compared to the freezing temperatures in Pittsburgh, but it was still chilly. I should have checked the weather in Florence before coming but my recklessness left me shivering. So if you’re thinking of studying in Florence, keep the weather in mind!
3. Being a world-famous city, are you able to escape the tourists?
A quick escape down the Arno River at sunset.
I live in the city center, where most of the historic buildings and monuments are found, so tourists are something I encounter around every corner. However, taking a couple minutes to venture out of this area takes you to a completely new environment. In the less tourist dense areas you’ll find cheaper food, coffee, and a more local experience.
4. Is studying abroad expensive?
Food is the number one thing I spend money on.
I won’t lie—it has been more expensive for me than staying in Pittsburgh, but it’s been totally worth it. The amount that I have spent has averaged out to about 150% more than I do on regular expenses than while at Pitt. This is not including travel expenses, which are important to budget. In order to stay on track, you can come up with a rough estimate of what trips you want to take and approximately how much money you want to spend in each city. To learn a bit about how to save money during Spring Break, you can take a look at THIS post where I talk about how I traveled around Spain and Portugal on budget for a week!
5. What are the must-see and must-do things in Florence?
The Duomo is even better in person.
Florence is an incredibly historic and beautiful city with endless things to see and do. As the list of sights and activities to do in Florence could comprise its own blog post, I’ll give you a brief summary of my top 5.
a) The Duomo - Officially called ‘The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore’, the Duomo is the icon of Florence. It has a breath-taking facade and beautiful dome which you can climb to get an incredible panorama of the city.
b) Uffizi Gallery - This horseshoe-shaped gallery will truly transport you to the Renaissance. Bonus: Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ is housed here.
c) Galleria dell’Accademia - No stay in Florence can be complete without seeing the iconic David. Although this gallery boasts an incredibly long line, the wait is undoubtedly worth it.
d) Piazzale Michelangelo - This is a free alternative to get an incredible view of the city. See from the old Roman wall, the Palazzo Vecchio tower, and the Pitti Palace. It’s an incredible sight that really is a must see.
e) Mercato Centrale - This decently-priced market is full of vendors selling an assortment of pizzas, paninis, pasta, wine, and cheeses. It is a great place to taste some of the most recognizable Tuscan foods.
6. Is it intimidating going to a country where you don’t speak the language?
Italian comes in handy when all the menus are not in English at restaurants.
At first the language barrier was definitely daunting. I expected to have a hard time communicating with the locals. However, being fortunate enough to have one Italian course under my belt and taking another here has really helped me feel more comfortable.
7. Will studying abroad set me back for graduation?
Plan ahead and take advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime.
I think this will definitely depend on what your major is and what courses you still need to take to graduate. I would recommend holding off on taking all of your electives until you know if you’ll study abroad. This way, you can plan accordingly and spend a semester abroad without a worry.
Daniel Arnabar is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2019, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Marketing major at University of Pittsburgh, he is studying abroad in Florence this semester.
Daniel's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.