Ngorli Paintsil (he/him) - Stanford in Florence
Major: Computer Science (BS), Mechanical Engineering (MS)
Minor: Mechanical Engineering (BS minor)
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: This photo is of me on top of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore also known as the Duomo. This was a trip for my Renaissance history class, where we climbed to the top of the Duomo and got to overlook the entire city of Florence and the surrounding hills.
Why did you choose to study in Florence?
I chose to study abroad in Florence because I found the culture and the history to be really fascinating. Florence is filled with lots of beautiful art, natural beauty and a ton of amazing food. It also gave me the opportunity to learn a new language in the native country of that language. Italy is a country with a cultural presence throughout the world, so getting the opportunity to experience one of its most historic and important cities was really exciting.
What were your expectations before you went and how did they change once you were in Florence?
Before I arrived, I expected it to be a little intimidating and potentially isolating being in a foreign country where I spoke very little of the language. However, a lot of the local Italians were quite friendly and welcoming, and I even befriended some workers of local restaurants that I went to frequently.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Florence?
A big academic benefit of studying in Florence was getting to take an art history class and being able to visit all of the sites and pieces that we studied, which is unique to the vast number of museums in Florence. It was truly such a rare opportunity and so cool to learn about all of the pieces as they were right in front of me. Also, as STEM major and coterm, getting the opportunity to take a lot of interesting humanities courses centered around Italy in Italy was a lot of fun as well.
What did you learn about yourself while studying abroad?
I learned that I like to see and do lots of things when I am traveling opposed to being by a beach or pool and just relaxing. I love going to museums and historical sites, going to major viewpoints and trying as much of the local cuisine as possible. I found planning trips to be a ton of fun, and getting to experience moments that made me feel like a local and not a tourist was the most valuable to me.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while abroad and what did you learn from it?
The most challenging experience for me was when I got stranded in Rome due to a large series of train cancellations and delays throughout all of Italy. My train back to Florence ended up being delayed over 5 hours and I did not get back to my residence in Florence until just before 3:00am. From this experience, I think I learned that despite all the planning, sometimes something very unexpected can still happen, and you just have to be flexible and able to adjust to whatever life throws at you.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
The biggest cultural adjustment I had to make was being in a much less diverse environment than the US. At times this resulted in a language barrier, cultural misunderstandings, and also feeling isolated racially.
What was your favorite part of everyday life?
My favorite part of my everyday life in Florence was walking to class. It was an amazing 30 minute walk that went past the beautiful walls of the Duomo, had an incredible view of the Arno river, and went past lots of busy stores. It was just a great experience to get to see a many parts of Florence every day, and the walk quickly made me feel at home.
What was the most memorable experience you had while in Florence?
My most memorable experience abroad was going to a UEFA Champions League quarterfinal match. As a big soccer fan, getting to go to a Champions League game was always a dream for me, and the atmosphere of the game was incredible. Getting to participate in the chants and hearing the roar inside the historical San Siro stadium when a goal was scored are memories I will cherish forever.
What 5 words would you use to describe the experience?
Magical, Transformative, Exciting, Traveler, Memories.
What was your favorite food?
My favorite food that I had in Florence was either the Truffle Gnocchi from Trattoria Zàzà or the Tiramisù from Osteria Pepó.
What was the most valuable item you took on the program?
The most valuable item I took with me were two disposable cameras. I had these with me wherever I went and they were great for capturing some of my favorite memories with my friends my entire time abroad.
What was your favorite music/band you discovered in Florence?
Elodie is an artist that I started listening to while in Italy, and still listen to today.