Experiencing Abroad (from Florence to the Outback)

Posted by at 2:42AM

Curious about the Florence or Australia programs? Well, here is what the experts have to say. Enjoy!

On the Aussie experience:

I’m not gonna lie. I was pretty overwhelmed when I arrived in Brisbane, was dropped off at Benson Court Motel, and had to figure out how I was going to spend my free time over the next week. Not only was I in Australia for the first time, but I knew just a handful of the other 46 Stanford in Australia students — and not even that well.

I was faced with a challenge reminiscent of being in Kindergarten, being at math camp for the first time, or being a freshman at NSO. I had to make a lot of new friends. Fast.

How do you do that in Brisbane? Well, Passion Pop helps. Trying to find the nearest restaurant selling pearl tea or exploring Australia’s various drug stores or “chemists” is a thrilling segway into Aussie culture in which to partake with your classmates. And then, of course, you can go out. Take the CityCat downtown, or just walk around the corner to the Royal Exchange – it gets crazy. Especially on Wednesday nights.

But such smalltime suburban shenanigans only lasted for a week before the 47 of us were swept into the wilderness, where there is no shortage of bonding activities and fun times to be had. I do not doubt that you will find your own amazing adventures wherever you go (though I can recommend to you wattle seed ice cream, star fruit, and custard apple — just ask Norm.) From the rainforest, to the beach, to the cities, and including all the travel and living situations in between, you will most likely find yourself being pushed out of your comfort level.

For me, that was one of the best parts about being abroad. I got to interact with other Stanford students in completely different contexts than that of being on campus. Traveling to so many different locations and being in and out of our elements from week to week is how I really, truly got to know others.

If you go to Australia – or anywhere – take advantage of that aspect of the trip. Try to go snorkeling every day on Heron Island. Go party in the Valley when you stay in Brisbane. Check out the Blue Mountains near Sydney. Whatever you do, explore what you can and roll with your friends — even if you don’t consider them your friends yet, you will by the end of the quarter.

~ Sara Silberstein

On Italia:

I went to Florence for two quarters during my junior and it was truly a life-changing experience.  I stayed in a wonderful Florentine home for six months and my host mom, brother and sister became like a second family to me.  My mom made delicious Italian meals every night and I went out with my brother and sister to discotecas and to the movies.

In my mind, Florence is the perfect city for studying abroad.  It’s small enough to walk everywhere but big enough to explore something new each day.  There are museums, statues and historical monuments everywhere you go. A must see is Michelangelo’s David.  I saw it on my last day in Florence, and even after having studied it and seen so many photos I was still blown away by its sheer beauty.  The view from Piazzale Michelangelo is also spectacular; it’s a nice walk and you get a view of the entire city.  As far as eating goes, finding the best gelato is key.  I went to Gelateria de’ Neri multiple times a week, even when it was freezing cold.  And for sandwiches, La Dispensa is the best panino you can get, and it’s really close to the Stanford center.

Studying abroad is about exploring new ideas, cultures, and people.  The places recommended above are only the tip of the iceberg; Florence offers all of these things and more.  I couldn’t have asked for anything more out of my abroad experience.

~ Gianna Masi

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