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Gabby Crooks

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Gabby Crooks, Cinque Terre

Gabby Crooks (she/her) - Stanford in Florence

Major: International Relations
Minors: Human Rights and Spanish
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: This was one of my last trips within Italy. A couple of my friends and I traveled to Cinque Terre and visited a few of the islands. The view behind me literally could be, and probably is, on a postcard; it was insane to see it in person! It was a gorgeous day trip and one of my favorite memories of my time abroad.

Questions and Answers with Gabby

Why did you choose to study abroad in Florence?

Italy had been a dream destination for me since elementary school, when I had done a project on the country. When I began designing my four-year plan the summer before I started at Stanford, the Florence program was already built into my plans, and I was lucky enough that Covid didn’t alter them. I was also excited by the prospect of learning another Romance language and being surrounded by beautiful architecture, fascinating museums, and amazing food!

What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Florence?

I had never been to Europe before, so my expectations were largely shaped by the Italy present in films and TV. A little misguided, but I expected gorgeous weather and rolling hills. Florence has some of both, but going during the winter meant that I didn’t experience a lot of that until near the end of the quarter. However, I was still moved by the beauty of the city and the history that was present in everything that I saw.

What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Florence?

I’m an International Relations major, so coming to Italy was already an incredible academic opportunity. The course offerings for my quarter were amazing and I was able to learn so much from all of my professors. I took a really cool class with Matteo Renzi, the former Prime Minister for Italy, on the European Union and how domestic politics impact such a multinational system. I also took the class offered by the Stanford Faculty in Residence, Professor Sylvia Yanagisako, on the politics of race in Italy, which was so eye-opening!

What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?

That I love traveling! I had never really had the opportunity to engage in international travel like this before coming to Florence. Italy also has an amazing domestic travel system that allowed me to visit a bunch of different cities across the country! I also found that I really enjoy learning new languages, all thanks to an amazing instructor!

What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?

On a trip to Prato with one of my classes, we encountered graffiti with racial slurs, including the N-word. It is always a bit jarring to constantly confront the international nature of racism, but the SIF staff was incredibly supportive. Another difficult experience was interacting with Italians, especially since we were not staying with host families. Thankfully, we had the Friends a Firenze program that paired us with local students, which was such a fun and enlightening experience.

What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?

Eating a small breakfast! American breakfasts are generally very hearty, so moving from that to a croissant and some yogurt was definitely a shift, but I got pretty accustomed to it by the end of the quarter.

What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Florence?

Walking, and later biking, to and from our accommodations to the Stanford in Florence Center. We got to walk past the Duomo, across Ponte Vecchio, and just really engage with Florence on foot. It is such a gorgeous and historic city that thrums with life and personality, so I appreciated the opportunity we had to become familiar with it in this regard!

What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Florence?

I would have to say the city of Milan. I went twice, once on our Bing trip, and another time with friends and family. While there, I went to the top of the Duomo, got to see a beautiful ballet, and traveled to Lake Como for a few hours. Though I love Florence, Milan is also one of my favorite cities.

What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?

Artistic, Idyllic, Pesto, Friendship, Enlightening

What was your favorite food you had in Florence?

Food was one of the highlights of going to Florence, but if I had to pick a favorite food, I loved ordering linguine with clams at a lot of the restaurants I went to! The gelato too, of course!

What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?

My umbrella. It rains in Florence in the winter far more than I expected.

What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Florence?

I didn’t discover a lot of new music, but I loved listening to the “Italy Top 100” playlist on Spotify, which had a fun mix of American pop music and Italian artists!