Alyssa Diaz - Stanford in Florence
Major: Art Practice and Italian
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: This is a photograph I took during a Smelick Dinner- a really nice dinner that a family sponsors for the Florence program a few times a quarter. In the picture, a lot of us crowded into the mirror to make it into the frame. The mirror is one of many found in the Yellow Room at the Stanford Center in Florence. The room is beautiful, and very old, and also where we have many of our classes!
Questions and Answers with Alyssa
Why did you choose to study abroad in Florence?
I had been debating studying abroad in Florence, Berlin, and Santiago- all really great programs with so much to offer, and although I struggled to make my decision initially, I ultimately chose Florence because of the deep history of art that is found in Florence. As an artist, I was so curious to see this place that inspired a movement that left its mark on the world in a way that is still present, in both good and bad. I also chose Florence because I felt that wherever I went, learning the language would add to my experience, and with Spanish under my belt I thought Italian was a natural next step.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Florence?
Honestly, I don’t remember exactly what I was expecting. I remember being very nervous because I wasn’t sure what to expect- going to Florence was my first time leaving the U.S. apart from going to Mexico to visit my grandparents, which felt very different to me since Mexico was right down the street from me growing up on the border.
I think I expected to get lost very often, to mess up a lot learning to speak the language, and to be in awe of just the sheer age and magnitude of art around me. All of those things did happen, but they happened in good and unexpected ways! I made really funny memories getting lost, and despite making error after error speaking Italian, I had beautiful conversations with strangers that would become friends. And as for the shock of being around so much art that had been there for hundreds of years- that never really went away.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Florence?
Personally, my greatest academic benefit was discovering I loved the Italian language and culture so much that I decided to use all my BOSP Florence courses to help round out a second major in Italian! Before finding that out though, going to Florence was also a great way for me to explore art history and delve more into language learning.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
I learned that I want to keep learning languages as long as I possibly can, and that after graduating, I want to pursue a career in TESOL. I also learned that things don’t always have to move so fast, and that personally, I benefit a lot from taking the time to sit back and just appreciate what is happening around me at the moment (although I’ll also admit that is a lot easier to say than to do much of the time).
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
Definitely learning to navigate Italian public transit. By the time I left Florence, I was very fond of my long commute, but I did have a steep learning curve in the beginning. The good news is that buses in Florence run everyday all over the city, and they do show up! The unfortunate news is that they almost never run on time- but that’s okay! The trick is just to get to your stop early, and if you’re close enough to the center, just walk.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
I would say it was adjusting to the pace of everything. At Stanford, I was so used to everything happening so fast, and the prioritization of efficiency and productivity. When I went to Italy, this was replaced by la dolce vita. People actually enjoy their meals instead of rushing to finish a sandwich to get back to work, go figure! It was definitely hard learning to slow down in the beginning, but by the time I left I couldn’t imagine having done it any other way.
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Florence?
My favorite part, hands down, was dinner with my host mom, Moni, and my roommate, Jen. I absolutely loved coming home and feeling like even though I was an entire ocean away from my family, I had another family just the room over. Moni also had the best stories and is so talented at cooking, which always made for a really good way to spend an evening.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Florence?
Working with the kids at the Kindergarten Firenze, and babysitting little Juno and Nami for the quarter- it's funny how we expect to be the ones teaching children when we have so much to learn from them, too.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Beautiful; scrumdiddlyumptious; forte ; short; wonderful
What was your favorite food you had in Florence?
Gelato 110%- I was skeptical how something that is translated as ice cream could be so magical and still fit in a spoon, but my goodness some things just do not translate well! If we’re getting really into the nitty gritty, my ultimate favorite gelato is at a place called La Via del Gelato on Via Giampaolo Orsini- they have a ton of great flavors, but their cioccolato buio is without a doubt my favorite(and that feels like an understatement).
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
A solid raincoat and walking shoes
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Florence?
Ultimo and Motta (two different vibes but lots of love for these dudes)