Study Abroad in Florence as an Economics Major

Jun 22, 2015 1:30:00 PM / by Stephanie Sadler

CAPA Study Abroad Alum Interview: Brayton Deckard

Meet Brayton who studied abroad in Florence with CAPA International Education during Fall semester 2014. Below, he talks about what it was like to be abroad specifically as an Economics major, the excitement of attending a soccer game in Europe and what it was like to take an art class in a city with such rich art history as Florence!

CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself.

BRAYTON DECKARD: I am a senior at Indiana University. I studied abroad in Florence with CAPA International Education during Fall semester 2014. I’m currently studying Economics and Sociology and also minoring in Business.

CW: What were your thoughts when you were sitting on the plane to your host city? And what about the plane ride home?

BD: The plane ride over was a mixture of emotions. I was obviously excited, but also nervous for what was in front of me, and also exhausted from the multiple connections. I was excited about seeing and living in an entirely new part of the world. I was nervous about how well I could fit in as an American in Italian culture and how big of an issue the language barrier would be.

On the plane ride back home I was extremely excited to see my friends and family for the first time in months. I also couldn’t wait to have a good cheeseburger. At the same time I was also sad because I knew that one of the greatest experiences of my life had come to an end.
CW: What was the adjustment process like when you arrived in Florence? What advice could you share with other students?
BD: The first week in Florence was a flurry. Not only was I trying to get acclimated to a new city and culture, but also get to know my new roommates and classmates at CAPA. Everyone experiences culture shock differently. For me, I had a couple of unfriendly social encounters with locals that made me realize that I was a long way away from the Midwestern hospitality I was used to. My advice for dealing with culture shock is to spend the time to get know the local history, attempt to gain an understanding of why our cultures are different, and learn to appreciate the differences.

CW: A lot of CAPA students love to experience Italian soccer matches. Did you have the chance to see any games while you were abroad?

BD: I was able to attend two soccer matches in Europe while abroad. The first that I attended was the local team, Fiorentina. I would recommend this to anyone studying in Florence. Fiorentina matches have a great game-day atmosphere and there is some great international talent on the team. I was also lucky enough to attend an F.C. Barcelona match while in Barcelona. It was an unbelievable experience at one of the most famous soccer stadiums in the world and I got to witness goals from Lionel Messi and Neymar. European soccer fans are very intense, which can be a good and bad thing, but I would recommend that any sports fan attend at least one soccer match while in Europe.
CW: What was it like to study abroad in Florence specifically as an economics major? What would you recommend in terms of things to see and for for someone with an interest in economics?
BD: Any chance that you get to travel to a new country is a chance to better understand the global economy as well as the economy of the country you’re visiting. It was very interesting to see the economic relationships countries within the European Union have with each other. Whether you’re interested in Economics or not, everyone studying abroad is constantly aware of the day-to-day fluctuations in the exchange rate.

CW: Where were the places you carved out as "Your City" - the places you found outside of the tourist sites, the places that were most meaningful for you? What was special about them?

BD: During my time in Florence, I began a ritual of stopping at a local coffee shop that was on my way too class every day with a friend. There was nothing special about the place and I honestly don’t even remember the name. It may seem small, but that visit to the coffee shop every morning was my moment of calm before the new adventure that I experienced every day. Now that I am back in the States, I really miss that coffee shop and the daily stops I made there.
CW: Did you manage to travel outside of Italy while you were abroad? Share a few of your best tips for other students who are planning their own adventures.
BD: My main goal when I left for Florence was to see as much as possible during my time studying abroad. I was able to visit 15 countries during my 4-month stint in Europe. My favorite city in Europe is Barcelona, so I would recommend a trip there to everyone, no matter where you are studying. In Italy, my greatest recommendation is a trip to Cinque Terre. If you visit Italy and don’t spend at least one day hiking Cinque Terre, you’ve made a mistake. Traveling with the local student travel agencies can be great and are sometimes the best option, but my most rewarding trips were ones that I planned on my own with my CAPA classmates.

CW: One of your interests is art. Where did you go to appreciate art in Florence? How was the art scene there different from back home?

BD: When it comes to Renaissance Art, there is no better city in the world to visit than Florence. One of the great things about studying in Florence was learning about artists and their artworks and then going to see the works in person, all in one class period. There are very few places in the world where you can have a similar experience. By living in Florence, you are automatically immersed in art culture and history. Beyond the popular attractions, like the Uffizi and the David, there are numerous smaller museums and galleries around Florence that can be just as impressive.
CW: The majority of students who study abroad are female. Was this true on your program? From a male point of view, what was most important in choosing a program? 
BD: For the semester that I studied in Florence, I was one of five guys in our program, compared to around 35 girls. All the guys lived in the same apartment, which was great and we all got to get to know each other pretty well. My decision to study in Florence was mostly based on location and financial reasons. Whether you are male or female, just do some research and pick a location that sounds most interesting to you. No matter what the gender breakdown in your program is, it is likely that many of the people will have similar interests to you.

CW: Did your experience abroad in any way shape your career goals and aspirations?

BD: My experience abroad definitely affected the way I plan to live my life going forward. It taught me how invaluable an experience can be. It encouraged me to embrace my creative side. It showed me what else is out there in the world and reminded me how much there is left to see. My study abroad experience has influenced me to aim higher and work harder in whatever profession I choose to go into.
Thanks Brayton!
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Topics: CAPA Alumni, Interviews, Florence, Italy