Jordan Christensen - 2014 Program Participant

Sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo overlooking Florence, Italy

One of Jordan’s many trips to Piazzale Michelangelo overlooking Florence at sunset

Why did you choose to study abroad during your undergraduate studies?

I chose to study abroad as a challenge to myself to become a braver and more well-rounded person. Of course, I love traveling, seeing new places, and learning about new cultures. I knew that studying abroad would be a blast, but I thought that living overseas for a whole semester was something that super brave and confident people could do. I was afraid to leave my friends and family for a semester and live in a country where I did not yet know the language. I decided to go in order to become one of the brave, confident people I’ve always looked up to. I realized that it’s important to take time to let yourself grow into a better person and sometimes that means leaving home for a while.

What were your housing arrangements like during your time in Florence?

I lived with three other girls in a two-bedroom apartment. We lived just off of Piazza Santa Croce. The view out our windows was the gorgeous façade of the Basilica of Santa Croce and the lively piazza. It was surreal. The apartment itself was beautiful, too. We had a kitchen, a big living room, a nice entryway, two bedrooms, and two bathrooms. Our landlord was kind, friendly, and helpful. I could not have asked for better housing while living in Florence. 

What was a normal day like as as an international student in Florence?

On weekdays, I would take a beautiful 15-minute walk past the Bargello, Piazza della Signoria, Orsanmichele church, and more to CEA Florence in Piazza della Repubblica. I would spend a few hours in class learning Italian, interior design, and art history. Although, my art history class was usually off campus in churches and museums! After school, I would stop by the grocery store to pick up fresh pasta and parmesan, explore the city, have dinner, and work on homework. Many nights ended by grabbing some gelato and eating it by the Arno River or on the steps of a church.

On weekends, which started on Fridays, I would usually wake up very early to head to the train station for a trip out of town to somewhere like Rome, Milan, or Venice. There are so many history-filled cities near Florence that I was able to do a lot of traveling on a budget! 

Skydiving in the Swiss Alps

Jordan stepping out of a helicopter in the Swiss Alps about to skydive!

What is our most amazing moment from your study abroad trip?

It is hard to choose just one! My time abroad was filled with so many amazing moments, big and small. I think that the biggest experience I will remember for the rest of my life was skydiving in the Swiss Alps. I spent a weekend visiting Interlaken and Bern, Switzerland. Interlaken is filled with adventure activities, and the morning I arrived, I had to choose which one to sign up for. I picked skydiving. Hey, it was on my bucket list, I was in the Swiss Alps, and after all, I did study abroad with the intention of challenging myself! So, a few hours later, I was standing on a helicopter skid 14,000 feet in the air ready to jump. Something about skydiving makes you feel like you can do anything, and I will never forget how fearless it made me feel. 

What kinds of challenges did you experience while studying abroad?

I missed the comforts of home a lot. I missed my family and friends. I was used to spending my evenings with my boyfriend or my friends, so being so far from my loved ones was really tough. Before I left, four months just seemed like a temporary period of time that would come and go. I didn’t imagine that I’d have time to miss home since I would be living in Italy! Once I arrived, it felt more permanent than I had expected.

Being away from home got easier after the first couple of weeks, and with technology and free texting and calling apps, I was able to talk with my loved ones as often as I wanted. Although there were times I would have given anything for just a hug from my Mom, I am so happy that I studied abroad. Living abroad is worth every minute! It made me so thankful for the time I spend at home.

What advice would you give to other Washington State students as to why they should study abroad in Florence with CEA?

The CEA Florence staff and faculty are seriously awesome. They became my friends. They accompanied us on weekend trips and chatted with us during school days. They helped us plan our personal trips, were available for moral support, and dedicated their time to giving students an unforgettable experience. The people are reason enough to study abroad with CEA! 

Florence is a great city to be a student. Walking from one corner of the city center to the other takes about 30 to 40 minutes, so there is plenty to see, but it’s not too spread out. The churches, museums, piazzas, restaurants, and people can keep you intrigued forever. The Renaissance history in Florence is fascinating. Living there, walking the same streets as artists like Michelangelo did gave me a strong connection to all the art history I learned about while I was there. On another note, the food is incredible. I knew I liked Italian food in the U.S. before I studied abroad, but, oh my goodness, I cannot even express how good real Italian food is.

Cinque Terre, Italy

Jordan in her favorite place in the world: Cinque Terre

What did you like best about the Italian way of life?

Italian culture is so much more relaxed than here at home. People don’t eat or drink coffee on the go. They take breaks to relax and enjoy each other’s company. They don’t take themselves or their work too seriously. Everything feels more personal in Italy. When you walk into a shop, the owner says “buongiorno,” and tells you about their products. You can buy fruit and vegetables from the farmers that grew them. The food is fresh, and life moves is a little more slowly in Italy. People take the time to appreciate the little things like family, good food, and good wine. 

What has studying abroad taught you about yourself and your future?

Studying abroad taught me not to limit myself. There is nothing stopping me from following my dreams. If I want to live in another country for a few months, I can. If I want to apply to jobs around the world, nothing is stopping me. Studying abroad made me realize that the biggest factor holding me back from chasing my dreams is myself. So, I have decided to stop setting limits and work toward a life filled with exciting, new experiences.

Why would you recommend CEA to other students? What makes their program in Italy so special?

The CEA faculty and staff are friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. I learned so much in my Italian class and the art history classes are amazing as well. Who wouldn’t want to learn about Renaissance art by spending class time in the Uffizi, the Accademia, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, or the Pitti Palace? CEA’s student services assistant, Daniele, planned excellent weekend trips for us and many fun activities like ice skating, paper workshops, and cooking classes. The positive attitudes of CEA Florence’s staff and faculty make for a safe and happy home away from home.