Brittany Reed - 2011 Program Participant
What inspired you to apply for an international program?
I had spent my entire life in the Midwest and had a huge desire to see the world for myself. Life was good but I knew there was more out there. I was no longer content just to know my little patch of the world. I craved being inspired by my surroundings and experiencing places I'd only ever seen in the posters on my walls. Once I got to college and learned about studying abroad, I knew it was something I had to do!
What attracted you to Athena Study Abroad?
Honestly, I chose Athena because it just felt right. I remember walking through my school's Study Abroad Fair and being completely overwhelmed by all of my options, but Athena just stuck out to me. The people were so friendly and really made me feel like they knew and cared about me. They took the time to help me pick the right program for me and broke the process down so it actually seemed doable. I couldn't have selected a better program!
What was your favorite part about Florence?
I loved everything about Florence, but if I had to pick just one thing it would have to be the inspiration of it all. Everywhere you turn in that city there is something to write home about; an ancient piece of art, a breathtaking view, the passion of the locals. I loved passing the Duomo on my way to class every day and being able to spend my free afternoons in the Boboli Gardens just roaming around.
Time seemed to stand still as you watched the sunset over the Ponte Vecchio. I think that's what I miss most.
What made your program exceptional?
Athena did a great job creating a small program in a big city. Although Florence is a huge tourist and study abroad destination, it didn't feel that way. The class sizes were small, so I was able to build lasting relationships with my professors and really learn a lot from them. I was given the freedom to, in a sense, create my own program and really tailor my experience so I could get out of it what I wanted. It was great!
How did the local Athena staff members help support you throughout your program?
The local staff in Italy were great! I had an advisor that met with me a couple of times throughout the semester and she was always there ready to help if I needed anything. I really appreciated that I knew there was always someone there if I needed them, but they still let me do my own thing.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently during your time in Florence?
If I were to go back now I think I would spend more time exploring Florence. Even though I lived there for four months I did a lot of traveling around Europe on the weekends and didn't get a chance to explore much of the non-touristy places in the city. In the back of my mind I think I had the fear that this would be my only time to explore Europe, so I had to make the most of my time by seeing everything. Looking back though I realize that getting back to Europe is not as difficult as I thought, so I wish that, rather than going mad checking off my bucket list, I would have slowed down and really experienced the culture in Florence.
What was a typical day like for you in Florence?
Just like in the U.S., each day I would wake up and go to class. But rather than begrudgingly rolling out of bed, I would wake up not believing where I was. I would walk along the cobblestone streets past the Duomo and the old man playing the accordion every day on my way to school, taking in every sight and sound as I went. Class was always different. Some days I would be in the fifth floor classroom learning Italian, other days I would be out at the Uffizi Art Gallery learning and sketching famous pieces of art that have shaped history.
After class I would, more often than not, hang out with my roommates by exploring the little piazzas of the city or trying the famous Italian cuisine. I would then retire to my apartment where I would do homework, write blog posts, etc., until it was time for bed. The next morning I would wake up and do it all over again.
What did you like about your program other than your coursework?
I loved the field trips. With Athena we got to choose two weekend field trips from a list of around eight different trips. Locations included places such as the Swiss Alps, Venice, Monte Carlo and the French Riviera, the Cinque Terre, Rome, Capri, and Pompeii. The trips were guided by professors from the school and you didn't have to worry about a thing once you got there, except maybe a meal here or there. For a girl who had never been to Europe before this was great because I wouldn't have even known where to begin in these places if I had gone on my own.
Where did you live in Florence? What did you like best about it?
While in Florence I lived with three other American students in an apartment right in the center of the city. The apartment was nice and open inside, and it had a great view of the Duomo and the street below. What I loved most about the apartment though was that I didn't feel like a student tourist. I felt like I lived in Italy. We had Italian neighbors across the hall and we spent our evenings listening to the classical pianist play from an unknown apartment a bit further down the street. No other Americans in sight. It was absolutely perfect!
How has your time in Italy changed your perspectives on life?
My time in Italy has opened my eyes to see the world. It has helped me break down the barriers between countries and realize that the world is not as big or scary as I once thought it to be. It has given me a desire to experience more of this world and to really dive into cultures that are different than mine
I have a growing curiosity for how others experience life now and a wanderlust that keeps driving me to the next adventure.