In September, I moved to Florence to start my year abroad as part of my Italian and English Literature degree. Moving to Florence not knowing anyone was extremely daunting but from the first week my experience was nothing like I expected.
One thing I was worried about was meeting people, as the University does not have many societies or a proper student union. I was extremely lucky to have met my friends on my first day at the University’s welcome talk for Erasmus students, which was a great way to meet people in the exact same situation as you. Another thing that made a difference was Erasmus organisations, something I knew nothing about. In Florence there are a few to choose from, including ESN, Erasmusland, AEGEE and ISF. For me, these organised events, which included city tours, aperitivi with quiz and karaoke and nights out, were a great way to make plans with the people I had met, so I was not meeting people on-one-one straight away.
There are so many small differences between Italian University and studying in Edinburgh that make the experience completely different. To start, you have so much paperwork which can feel like it is never-ending. Important advice is to get to an office when they are open, and definitely make sure you have looked up their opening times before, as even the important uni offices are only open on certain days and at certain tines. Class times are all either two or four hours and the weirdest thing was how busy and over-subscribed classes are. Especially at the beginning, get their early to ensure you can get in and get a seat. Another thing you need to be aware of is getting a Codice Fiscale, a tax code, all you need is your passport and they can give you your form there.
Listening to Italian in lectures has really helped me to improve and I have been impressed with how much I understand. However, most of my friends I made here were through Erasmus so have also been speaking lots of English and Spanish. To practise your Italian it is important to make the effort, even though lots of people in shops and restaurants speak English. Before I got here, I was told by fourth years that the Italians were not interested in talking to Erasmus students so it made me scared to talk to anyone in class but I found that they were all patient and welcoming and happy to help and improve their English.
I did not have many hours at University so this gave me time to travel and explore the city. Florence is a great city with so much to do. Even though I have been here flotor months, I’ve still got lots of things I want to do in my last few weeks. Florence is beautiful to walk around because of the culture and architecture, and it has been amazing being able to see some of the most famous pieces of art, including Michelangelo’s David. I have walked past the Duomo on average twice-a-day and I am still overwhelmed by its size and beauty and am still unable to walk past it without taking a picture. Florence is also the ideal city to study abroad in as it is easy to navigate and as it’s a small city you can walk every. In this way, it is very similar to Edinburgh which is something that appealed to me. Not only is the city extremely cultural, with lots of tourist sights to see, but there is also lots to do, with an endless choice of restaurants, bars and shops, and always things to do.
A year abroad is an incredible opportunity to not only live in a new city but also explore a country. There are normally Erasmus organised trips on weekends to all over Italy, and sometimes neighbouring countries. It is also easy to travel to other cities from Florence by train and I have been to places I didn’t even know existed before I got here. Places I have been include Verona, Bologna, Eurochocolate festival in Perugia and the thermal baths Terme di Saturnia.
After Christmas, I have had to be focusing on my exams. Studying in Italian has been the biggest challenge yet, but luckily all of my classes put Powerpoint slides up on the on-line platform. Reading critical books and having to study in Italian, has enabled me to improve my language and also start thinking in Italian. Now my exams are over, I am looking forward to enjoying the city before I look forward to moving my new city and starting my Internship in second semester.