Ciao a tutti!
My name is Karsen and I am a Student Ambassador and senior (yikes!) at Champlain College. I just spent the last four months studying abroad in Florence, Italy and traveling Europe. It was by far the most AMAZING experience I have ever had. Every time I think about it, or tell someone a story, I feel like it was all a dream. I went through Champlain using API and studied at Lorenzo de Medici in the heart of Florence. I had the opportunity to take some really unique classes, and I had to be talked down from 18 credits because I just couldn’t decide on which classes to take! I had Italian Language, Visual Merchandising (a fashion class) Wine Business Marketing, and two cooking classes; Current Trends in Italian Cuisine and History and Culture of Italian Cuisine. All my classes except Italian, were 2 and a half hours, and we met once a week.
In my Wine Business Marketing class we learned so much about the wine markets all over the world, went on wine tastings, visited vineyards and our final project was to create our own wine brand. My Visual Merchandising class was filled with field trips to visit stores to compare their visual marketing, and in the end we created our own visual merchandising display. My group did such a wonderful job we were featured in Florence’s Art is in the Streets event! Both of my cooking classes were structured for an hour of teaching, then an hour of cooking an appetizer, entree and dessert, then 30 minutes of discussion and critiquing the food. The best part about those classes (besides enjoying the delicious food!) was taking all of those recipes home with me!
One of the first things I did when I arrived back in the US was researching and buying a pasta maker so I could continue to always make fresh, homemade pasta. As well, I didn’t leave Italy before buying myself an espresso machine and a few bags to take home.
As well as having these great classes, the experiences outside of school were the best. Over the course of the semester, I visited 8 countries and 24 cities. But in Florence alone I experienced a real Italian opera, tried the most interesting foods, discovered a passion for gelato (basil and ginger is still my favorite!) attended wine tastings, shopped all over the city, attended Bianca Notte (www.nottebiancafirenze.it/) visited all the museums, strolled through the local markets, climbed the Duomo, and so much more!
The countries I visited were: France, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Ireland, Spain and Greece. I spent most of my time exploring Italy though, and loved all the cities I visited. Rome, Sienna, Cinque Terre, Chianti and Castigion Fiorentino were my favorite, but it’s hard to pick! API took us on weekend trips to Rome, Venice/Padua, and Tuscany that were included in the program. We sat in the Palio di Sienna, Rome’s Colosseum, tried on authentic masks in Venice, and enjoyed the thermal baths and local cuisine in Tuscany.
On my own, I visited Champlain’s campus in Dublin to see friends, went to an FC Barcelona soccer game, went on a cruise through Greece, hiked Cinque Terre (the picture above), went on a beer tour in Prague and saw the astronomical clock, visited six castles in Germany, tried the original Sacher Torte in Vienna, went to Venice for the Carnevale and ate frittoli, visited the Catacombe dei Cappuccini in Palermo, climbed (half due to my fear of heights) the Eiffel Tower and hung out with the Mona Lisa in the Louvre and visited the Palace of Versailles.
I could go on and on for hours about how much I loved everything from the API program, Firenze, the language (which I didn’t start learning until I arrived) the food and espressos, the culture, the ease of traveling to other cities and countries, and making new friends from all over. If anyone wants to ask me any questions, or wants their ear talked off about Florence and studying abroad at Champlain, please shoot an email to Karsen at: firstname.lastname@example.org
And if you do visit Florence at any point in time, make sure to visit All’ Antico Vinaio. It is the best sandwich shop in the WORLD. Five Euros for a sandwich the size of your head! It’s number 1 out of 1,500 restaurants on TripAdvisor, and there are over 1,500 reviews that will tell you why! And if you go, look around the walls and you’ll find a picture of my boyfriend and I hanging on the wall enjoying their sandwiches at Piazza Michelangelo overlooking the city. Through the 4 months we were there, we became friends with the owners and purchased over 100 sandwiches! Just one piece of advise, don’t try and mix two meats on a sandwich. A new sign went up before we left reading, “If you want two meats, it will cost an extra Euro. And its GROSS.” Got to love Italians and their ways!