Liza Greenberg - 2013 Program Participant

Liza enjoying the waterways of Venice on a weekend excursion.
Liza enjoying the waterways of Venice on a weekend excursion.

Why did you choose to study abroad? Why Italy?

I made the decision that I was going to study abroad in college, back in high school. My family is not big on family vacation travels, and I knew I was missing out. When my older sister studied abroad her Senior year of college, I was extremely jealous and knew I wanted to follow in her footsteps. She raved about her semester in Australia, which sounded amazing, but I knew I wanted to study abroad in Italy to retrace my Italian heritage and meet my distant cousins.

I decided on Florence, Italy for two reasons: I had friends from school study abroad and rave about the beautiful/walkable city and the SAI program, and because I have relatives who own a pizzeria in Florence that I had always dreamt of meeting! 

What were your housing arrangements like? 

I lived in a shared student apartment on a street that was a ten minute walk from the super touristy part of the city, which was awesome. Because I was a good distance away from the daily street chaos, I had the opportunity to immerse myself into the authentic Florentine culture; I befriended our neighbors, took advantage of the delicious cuisine (a few hole-in-the-wall trattoria/osteria’s named #1 in Florence), and the man who owned the fruit/vegetable stand down the street tossed me my favorite apple and greeted me, by name, at 9:00 am every morning. I felt like I was part of the community!

The apartment itself was very small. It consisted of a living room with a large couch and dining table, two bedrooms, two baths, and a tiny kitchen. I was pleased by the modern design, but was not thrilled about the amenities and services. For example, I ran into multiple problems with our stove and washing machine. We had a cleaner, but she only came once a week and did not do a very thorough job. Other than those minor issues, I had a great housing experience. I lived with three of my close college friends and lived across the hall from four other college friends!

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

What I loved most about the SAI program was how flexible my daily schedule was. A normal day for a student consists of going to class and having the rest of your afternoon, or in-between class time to explore the city.

During the week, my routine went as followed: Wake up at 8 am, go for a run, (my favorite was up and down the piazza michaelangelo), shower, pick up my apple and espresso from the nearby produce stand, walk one and a half miles to school and attend my two or three classes per day, meet up with friends for lunch, walk around the city, lounge time/homework, get dressed and go to dinner with friends, sleep.

On most weekends, I was fortunate enough to visit other amazing countries. I visited the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, Rimini, Rome, and Venice in Italy. Outside of Italy, I traveled to Germany, Ireland, Spain, France, and The Netherlands.

What was the biggest challenge you faced abroad?

The biggest challenge I faced was definitely financial setbacks. It was tough traveling in such a large group with close friends because while we all wanted to go on excursion’s together. Our financial situations were different, so we either had to split up or make executive travel decisions.

What are the top reasons you'd want to go back to Italy and study again?

Wow, there are so many reasons why I want to go back to Italy! If I had to list the top two it would for the beautiful scenery and culture, and to visit my family!

How has your experience studying abroad impacted your life?

My semester abroad truly changed my life. Yes, there were spectacular views and the food and wine were everything you dream of and more, but for me, it was the people I met that made my experience nothing short of magical.

Although I studied the language, I learned the majority of Italian from people on the street, the locals. Every day, I would rehearse my favorite sentence I picked up inside a café, or while climbing The Duomo. Every Sunday and Wednesday night, I walked to my family’s pizzeria, “Cinzia’s Pizzeria” for a meal that could feed five people. I had the incredible luxury of being surrounded by eight family members, all of whom spoke little to no English. At first, the language barrier was an extreme set back, but it didn’t take much time to realize that hand gestures and smiles were all we needed to communicate.

It was so nice to disconnect from social media; I made it a rule to only use my phone and computer before I went to sleep at night. Some of my friends that I traveled with would be in constant search for WiFi in every restaurant we sat down at, but I made it a point to focus on living in the moment and I really encourage other travelers to do the same! 

What important tips can you give to future participants of the SAI Florence program?

Plan your excursions ahead of time! Struggling to book hostels and flights most often results in money deficiency, which is not something you want to be stressing about overseas.

If you could study abroad again, where would you go, and why?

If I could study abroad again (I would in a heartbeat), I’d love to study in Australia. My sister and a few high school friends spent their study abroad semesters there and I’m so jealous of their photos and tanned skin!