I’ve recently been getting emails from many prospective students heading to Florence to study abroad with similar questions (and though I’ve probably answered all of you individually) I thought I’d write a quick post to help out anyone else with questions.
1. How did you find your apartment? Did you do research before hand? How did you find your roommates? Does the landlord speak English?
Honestly, finding an apartment is the last thing you should worry about. I did no research before coming to Italy and had no idea who I was going to be living with. But during your first week in Florence (orientation week), an agency called Florence and Abroad will come to school and hand out a huge packet with available apartments. They’ve been working with FIT for over 10 years now (if I remember correctly) and they’re great! they speak perfect English and know what they’re doing. And during orientation week, you get a chance to meet everyone in your major and the entire study abroad program as well, which gives you the opportunity to find your roommate(s) 🙂 And I’m pretty sure not all the landlords speak English, as most of them are quite elderly, but you can definitely get by.. be creative! Use the universal sign language or keep Google translate open! haha
And, when you’re signing a lease for your apartment, you always have the option to sign for 1 semester at a time (which is what my roommates and I did). Which gives you the option to move into another apartment just incase the place you got wasn’t your first choice.
(Oh and you also have the choice to stay in the Residence Hall, or stay with a host family. Which I’m not too familiar with either since I am living in an apartment. However if you ask about those options to your study abroad director, I’m sure they’ll have answers for you!)
2.What did you do about money? How did your parents give it to you? About how much do you spend in a month?
The way my roommates and I get our money is by having our parents put money into our bank accounts, and we just go to the ATM machines and take out Euros. I use Bank of America whose sister bank is BNL here in Florence, and there are many around. So I don’t get charged for using the ATM to pull out cash. Although you will get the exchange rate charge, but that applies to anyone using any bank. I also hear that TD Bank does not charge for ATM use, but I would double check with that. And other than those 2 banks, I’m not sure which other banks won’t charge you. (And be careful when using ‘Bancomats’ aka ATM’s that aren’t connected directly to a bank, bc there have been many instances that it’ll eat your card, and it’s a hassle to get back.)
And how much you spend monthly will differ between everyone. Rent is usually between 400-600 Euros/month (of course depending on location, # of ppl you live with, if you’re sharing a room or not, etc.) And even with money for food, it really depends on whether or not you like to eat out a lot, or cook at home. But I do find that grocery shopping here is cheaper than the states especially if you’re going to the markets to buy fresh produce (though you may be grocery shopping much more frequently). Also I’m sure you’re aware of your spending habits, whether you like to shop a lot, or save up, and that doesn’t change much here.
3. I can’t speak Italian, will that be a problem?
Honestly, I came to Italy and forgot all the Italian I learned during the previous semester. I walked into class saying ‘Hola’ instead of ‘Ciao’.. haha but Florence being such a small city with such a huge population of American students, many of the Italians have picked up English. Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to learn Italian, but you can definitely get by without knowing much. However, you probably should know a few words/ phrases before getting here..
“Ciao”- Hi/ Bye
“Buongiorno”- Good morning
“Buonasera”- Good evening (which I think is used starting around 3-4pm)
“Grazie”- Thank you
“Prego”- You’re welcome
“Quanto costa?” -How much does this cost?
“Dov’e…..?- “Where is….?
These should get you by during orientation week, before you being your Italian classes! Just remember to be respectful since you’ll be in a foreign country with a completely different culture!
4.What supplies did you bring with you? Are any provided? What about fabric?
This question is for the design students, and I would say to bring all your markers and color pencils, and if you’re one to use water color, bring those too. The art stores do sell all these products, however they are much more expensive here than in the states, and they may not have the brand that you prefer. Also, if you have specific tracing/marker paper you like, bring those as well. And for your sewing, draping, pattern making classes, don’t forget to bring your rulers, scissors, pins, sewing needles, and a few threads. I actually only brought my rulers, scissors, and pins and bought the rest here, which wasn’t much at all. There’s a Singer store right by the school campus which has all the basic necessities. And the school gives you your first 5 meters of muslin, and 2 rolls of pattern paper, then you need to buy whatever you need for the rest of the semester/ year. And muslin here is 11 euros/5 meters, which is cheaper than NYC.. (if I remember correctly), I think I spent like $17/5 yards. And yes, your term garment fabric is all graciously provided for you!! No worries about having to spend a fortune on your term garments 🙂
5. How’s the workload? I heard it’s a lot more relaxed in Italy than in NYC, is that true? And you can’t stay in the work rooms till 2am, right?
From my experience, I do find being in Florence to be a lot more relaxing than in NYC. But you have to take into consideration that when I was in NY, I was taking 9 classes and interning at the same time. While here in Florence, I’m only going to school, which already makes things a lot easier. And also, the culture here in general is much more relaxed than the NYC hustle. Meaning that you cannot work in the labs till 2am, and school is not open on the weekends. The labs close by 8pm, which means that you will have to utilize your class time very well. And 7 hours of draping sounds long, but it’s actually not tot bad because by the end of class, you’ll probably have all your work done, and won’t need to go into the lab again until your next class. (which is SUPER rare in NY, because I remember spending every weekend and weeknight in the draping labs). I would say the workload is the same, as in you get the same # of assignments/ projects as you would at FIT in NY but oddly, it’s not as stressful as it was in NY.
6. Do many students go home for winter break?
I would say 50/50. I know many students went home, but many stayed in Florence, or traveled throughout Europe! It’s actually much cheaper to travel around Europe than buying another round trip ticket to the states and back!
Hope this helped some of you! These answers are my thoughts and opinions after being here for almost a year. But if you have any other specific questions I didn’t answer, feel free to ask in the comments below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
p.s- Remember to come with an open mind! This isn’t America, and definitely not NYC. Nothing will be as easy or as convenient but Florence is so rich in culture, art and of course food! So hope you enjoy your time abroad!