Elizabeth Hockett '11
Elizabeth Hockett '11, an Art History and Visual Culture/Studio Art double major, studied in Florence, Italy with Studio Art Centers International (SACI).
To really experience Florence, or any other foreign country, beyond its tourist attractions, I had to be brave and venture outside the easy study abroad circles.
This is where my Italian language course became the most important class I was taking. Stumbling through conversations about bread types with bakers and chit-chatting with dried fruit and nut vendors at the Mercato Centrale were some of my most frustrating yet exhilarating moments while abroad. By being willing to make a fool of myself...by being willing to try with Italians in their own language made all the difference between being another American student or just your average ragazza (Italian youth). By talking with waiters, DJs, older ladies at the bus station, and the gelato scoopers, speaking Italian became familiar, and it was strange for me to come home to my apartment and speak English with my flatmates.
Through these conversations with people, I was offered a position to help a restaurant and club owner in central Florence find student work and curate a gallery show in his Club Blob.
Through time spent with my Italian teacher, Marta, we became friends and she saw how enthusiastic I was about learning her culture. She introduced me to some Italian college students that I eventually made friends with and came to hang out with. I was asked to be an English tutor for an 11-year-old girl for an hour twice a week. She made me realize how alike youth in different countries are, and how we could communicate in each other’s language with patience and a lot of hand gestures. These experiences made me feel a part of the real Italian community in Florence and made me a stronger, more outgoing person than I ever was before. Florence has so many secret spots and local hang outs. If you are willing to explore and become one of the "locals" it is more gratifying than anything else you may experience during your stay.
High Renaissance Art History was another of the classes that was crucial to my adventure in Florence. The ability to walk out of the classroom and see, actually be right next to, the masterpieces and architecture we had been discussing was remarkable and made the history real. Every night when I walked home to my apartment I couldn't believe where I was. Looking out my living room window onto the Duomo and the Baptistry and the masses of people lent hours of fantastic people-watching and incredible atmosphere. This is going to sound corny, but it was, and still is, a seriously magical place.