Zeina Zeitoun - 2015 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I've always wanted to get out and travel. I had a sense of wanderlust, if you will. I'm always feeling like I'm living in the wrong place, and that I'm meant to see the world and learn by traveling. I knew I wanted to study abroad ever since high school, I just never knew where until I came across Studio Art Centers International (SACI).

Exhibition floor at La Specola Museum in Florence, Italy

Preparing for our exhibition show at La Specola museum

Why did you choose SACI?

I'm studying the arts, and I felt like even though Florence is mostly painting and sculpture, I could learn so much that could help and broader my knowledge about great artists of Italy. I've always had a love and a curiosity for Italy and the school seemed like a perfect match. The city, the people, the school, the food, it all came together so well in my mind, and I knew that even though I was terrified I would remember it for the rest of my life.

What was your favorite part about Florence?

The people and the architecture. The people are really what made it everything for me, from the strangers that helped me get home to the Italian boy I fell in love with and the couple’s PDA to the chefs who leave you satisfied with every bite you take. The architecture was truly amazing and diverse. Walking by the Duomo every morning to class was just the freshest breath of air I've ever had. The density of the city was both beautifully tight and a great fit for me.

Relaxing at a hot springs resort in Italy

Hot Springs relaxation before my final exhibition show

What made your experience abroad unique?

I'm originally from Lebanon and as soon as I left the airport I felt like I was home, but in such a different way that I loved so much. At first I was incredibly scared, but with much lessons learned I found my way to being comfortable in the beautiful city of Florence. The first week of being there I had my valuables stolen from me (watch out for those pickpockets and gypsies) and it really took me a while to bounce back from that. I got lost taking the train alone, but received so much help from random Italians who didn't understand English but wanted to help me as much as they could. I fell in love with a cute Italian man, which I said I would never do. I developed a lifelong bond with friends who I never thought I'd be so close with. I intend to go back to Florence as soon as possible, while learning Italian on my own.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

They helped me as much as they really could. They were there when I needed a taxi's number, they were there when I needed directions, they were there when a class field trip to Bologna ended badly, and they were there when you just simply needed somebody to talk to.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish I could've traveled outside of Italy more; but I don't regret spending most of my time in Italy, because I really just wanted to take it all in in the four months I was there, and I did.

Studio Arts Center International program participants

SACI program participants

Describe a typical day in your life in Florence.

On a school day, I would wake up and make tea, and then go to class. Depending on the day, my class would either be in the school building, which was a short walk away, or it would be meeting with the class at a museum or the studio. On my way I would get a cappuccino to get me started! After class I would go home and make lunch, then get ready for my second class. I would eat my lunch near my window and watch the people pass by.

After classes I would go home and catch up with my roommates, and of course plan the night. Usually my friends and I would go to a pub near Sant'Ambrogio and play darts and catch up with our Italian friends. Everyone would have so much fun, and later some would go to another club. I would usually just spend the night at my friend’s place in the mountains. I would wake up to beautiful gardens and a hot espresso, and do it over again.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

Probably just walking around the city alone, exploring, and finding things and places. I also really enjoyed going to restaurants, not only for the food, but I also got the chance to really practice my Italian. The thing I miss the most, though, is hearing spoken Italian.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

It was pretty good. It was right above a grocery market, and a two minute walk away from San Lorenzo and the Central Market. It was also super close to the Santa Maria Novella Train station. The location was the best part, but the apartment itself had many problems with the sink and the washing machine. But I was in Florence, so I didn't care as much as I would've otherwise.

What is one thing every student should know before participating in your program?

Don't be afraid to explore. Don't be afraid to leave your apartment for a whole day or two. Meet as many people as you can, but still be careful. Be careful with your things, but have fun. You'll only get to be there with those people once in your life, so take so much advantage of that.

Recreating the Deposition of Christ at the Duomo in Florence, Italy

Our recreation of the Deposition of Christ at the Duomo

Now that you're home, how has studying abroad impacted your life?

Tremendously. I can't wait to go back. I'm learning and reading Italian. I'm thinking of finding work there when I graduate as well. I've just developed this love for Italy.

Italy will teach you how to cherish and enjoy things in life.

Would you recommend SACI to others? Why?

Yes! Not only because of the city it's in, but because the classes offered are really special. You learn so so much in just a short time span, and you get to be surrounded by what you're learning in your textbooks. It's truly amazing.