Melissa Sakamoto - 2008 & 2009 Program Participant

Melissa relaxing by the Florences iconic Ponte Vecchio bridge
Melissa relaxing by the Florence’s iconic Ponte Vecchio bridge.

What factors influenced your decision to study abroad with API?

I chose API because their program was offered in Florence, Italy at an international school, Scuola Lorenzo de'Medici. I liked that the program guided you through the visa process and helped you find housing. I also loved that the school offered a wide selection of curriculum-- I was able to take a variety of classes from wine tasting to international marketing to art history (some classes were actually held inside the Uffizi museum in front of the paintings we were studying!).

What was your normal day life studying in Florence, Italy?

My normal day involved waking up, grabbing a cappuccino before class, attending class with international studies, followed by a delicious meal at night with my roommates and classmates. Oh, and of course you can't forget dessert -- I literally ate gelato almost every day.

Any specific aspects of Florence that make you want to return?

I'd want to go back to Florence because of it's rich history and culture, and the food! I loved attending my art history classes inside museums, and studying the paintings up-close. I fell in love with Italian cuisine, and especially want to go back and eat bistecca alla fiorentina.

How has studying abroad impacted your life?

Studying abroad in Florence, Italy gave me a better sense of myself and what I'm capable of.  After realizing that I could become fluent in another language and live abroad in a completely different culture, I gained a strong sense of independence. It was because of my year abroad that I decided to work abroad upon graduation. I worked in Japan for over three years, and I was able to learn more about my family's history and roots.

Would you recommend your API program to others?

YES! I would recommend the API program, especially in Florence, because the onsite staff were so warm and helpful. If you ever had any questions or concerns, you could visit their office and they would take care of you. They also planned a ton of different excursions around Italy for us!

Any advice for future program participants?

For future participants, I would say to prepare for the language and culture as much as possible. When I studied abroad in Florence, I had taken Italian language classes for two years. This foundation helped me so much in terms of survival and making friends with locals.

I've also been on the unprepared side--when I went abroad to work in Japan, I did not have any knowledge of the Japanese language and did not realize how much more I should've read about the culture differences. Culture shock is a real thing, and being fully prepared for it will make life so much easier.