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Sarina Deb

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Sarina Deb (she/her) - Stanford in Florence

Major: Political Science

Minors: Psychology & Human Rights

College year while abroad: Senior

About the photo: I took this photo when going to watch the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo in one of Florence's beautiful streets!


Why did you choose to study in Florence?

I chose to study in Florence because I was enthralled by the city’s intricate and timeless architecture, art, and culture, which have been shaped by its rich political and religious histories. As a political science major, I was also curious to learn more about Italy’s sociopolitical history and role in the European Union today.

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

I expected to love exploring the city, but my expectations of the program itself were far exceeded. Stanford’s Center in Florence is beyond beautiful and full of staff members that truly care about you and value your academic and professional interests and social and emotional development. I was amazed by the incredible resources offered to us, from a trip to Milan to weekly lunches with diverse leaders, to boundless opportunities to connect with Italian students and families. I made some of the closest friends I have made in college through SiF, and learned more about myself and the city than I could have imagined.

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

Studying inside the beautiful Stanford in Florence building in the city’s center, surrounded by 18th century artwork and enthusiastic Professors was nothing short of academic immersion. In Florence, I studied the enduring problems of the European Union, engaged in an intersectional feminist analysis of romance in Italian cinema, learned to properly pronounce Italian catchphrases, and delved into an exploration of the immigrant life in Italy’s rural areas. Florence provided me the opportunity to put my finger on the pulse of Italian politics, culture, and history, all while being surrounded by the unfolding culture and history itself.

What did you learn about yourself while studying abroad?

I discovered a newfound appreciation for art, art history, and religious history. I come from a musical background, but being in such a cultural hub for visual artwork empowered me to get in touch with a curiosity I hold for analyzing and dissecting art. I also attempted to embody the perspective of renaissance-era Florentine families through attending Catholic ceremonies despite not coming from a Catholic family, and learned the value of embracing and attempting to understand cultural and religious facets that are different from your own.

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

Visiting my Ciao family — the family we are paired to have dinner with — presented a challenge to me at first. The woman I was fortunate to spend time with lived about an hour from our residences, and I was scared to navigate to her house alone, was not sure what to bring for her, and was even less sure of what to expect. Soon enough, however, dinners at Sandra’s became a cornerstone of my experience. I gained insight into Italian customs and family traditions, practiced my Italian, and enjoyed delicious homemade meals.

What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?

The biggest cultural adjustment I had to make when moving to Florence was probably having longer meals. I am used to quickly grabbing food with friends or even alone, but in Florence mealtimes are a big part of the social experience, and I’d often find myself having 2-3 hour lunches or dinners with friends, both Italian and American, which I learned to plan ahead for!

What was your favorite part of everyday life?

My favorite part of everyday life in Florence was discovering new coffee shops, vintage thrift stores, art galleries, or museums to frequent with my friends. I constantly felt like there was more to explore and I pushed myself to find new cultural hubs, dining spots, or shopping areas that would help me better understand Florence at its core.

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

There are too many to name, but one of the most memorable experiences I had while I was in Florence was probably getting to have dinner with the Ferragamo family during one of our Smelick Family Dinners. My friends and I were starstruck to get to sit at the same table as a family which has been so central to shaping Italian fashion design, and we were even more surprised by how kind and engaged they were!

What 5 words would you use to describe the experience?

Filled with meaningful connections & experiences!

What was your favorite food?

Definitely Tagliatelle Funghi Porcini e Tartufo (a pasta with truffle and mushroom!)

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

Definitely a durable pair of shoes. Get ready to walk a lot in Florence. I averaged probably 10,000-15,000 steps a day, and appropriate footwear is a must to get around!

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

All of the music that scores the films we watched for my Italian cinema class!