Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Ciao tutti!

In a weeks time I’ll be packing up my belongings and leaving Florence, Italy. That realization has not quite hit yet. This semester in Florence has been an amazing experience to say the least. I feel as though I’ve just started to settle into the pace of Italian life and living and now its almost time to leave! During my time here in Florence as well as on my travels through Europe I’ve learned a lot about the similarities and differences between cultures, the importance of diversity, and how to push myself out of my comfort zone. However most, if not all, of my learning and experiences came from experiences I brought upon myself independently outside of the program and outside of school. While the program hosts amazing internship opportunities as well as numerous activities and field trips to neighboring cities there is quite no experience that can live up to traveling and relying on yourself. Even wandering the streets of Florence is a wonderful opportunity to get lost and explore where the winding cobblestone streets take you. The beauty of Florence is never-ending from the aerial view of Florence from the Piazza de Michelangelo to the countless museums full of beautiful works of art from Renaissance masters such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
The food is a central component of Italian culture and that is one aspect that rubbed off on me quickly. I’ve always enjoyed cooking and when I discovered the central market bursting with fresh produce, meats, fish, handmade pasta, cheeses, and wine I was beside myself. I’ve enjoyed the process of cooking with only the freshest of ingredients and have found a passion for food! No big surprise there though.
One of the most challenging aspects of life was the adjustment to the slow pace of life, which challenges my speed walk to class daily. However, after realizing the relaxed nature of Italian life I’ve recently come to accept and even embrace this pace. I find myself noticing more of my surroundings and even letting myself wander if I have the time.
I can happily say that I’m forever sleep deprived from early morning train rides to our city or country of choice on the weekends and even busier weekdays filled with exploring the city of Florence. This semester has brought me on a whirlwind adventure tossing me completely out of my comfort zone into unchartered territory. However, this unchartered territory has led me to discover some of the most unbelievable food, works of art, and people I couldn’t have imagined possible. Its unbelievable my time here is coming to a close. Hopefully, I’ll be able to return in the future to the city that changed my perspective on so many things.

- Sarah Williams

Friday, November 22, 2013

Ciao a Tutti

I would need to blog twice a day, every day, to capture the essence of my time here in Florence. The way I feel about this city has changed in a myriad of ways, as expected, since the moment I first saw the Duomo from the airplane until now. It’s easy now, so close to the end, to romanticize my time here, since it does indeed involve a lot of romance—the culture focuses on it, the men profess it, the language is even named after Romance. But, I feel like I must shed a little reality on the experience, and talk for a brief moment about the struggles and discomforts of life here.

I think I speak for everyone when I state the following: the mosquitoes are enough to drive a sane woman to violence; there is no safe way to walk around with a to-go cup of coffee without knowing how blatantly American you look; street vendors seemingly pop out of the ground whenever it rains, prompting you with “Ombrella? Ombrella? Sorella, signoria, ombrella?”; tourists crowd each square and seem to have no sense of periphery vision, no matter how obvious it is that you are late to class; every time you speak some form of broken, Americanized Italian, you will immediately receive an exasperated sigh and response in perfect English.

And yet…

The mosquitoes still persist because of the beautifully warm weather. To-go cups are not typical, because Italians would rather experience everything they do in a slow and enjoyable manner. Why gulp down your cappuccino as you walk to class, when instead, you can take five extra minutes and sip it while standing at the bar? The vendors, however annoying they might be, at least will never be as terrible as those in other cities—those that will actually go so far as to grab you by the arm when you won’t pay five Euro for a cheap plastic poncho. The tourists are only there for the same reasons I am, when I think about it, so how can I be angry? They have the right to see what I see every day, they have the right to experience the wonder I have felt for months, and I can’t really blame them for staring, slack-jawed, at the Loggia in Piazza della Signoria as I rush past on my way to Photography. Lastly, Italians are used to Americans simply assuming that everyone speaks English, so it’s no wonder that most of the time we students receive that exasperated English response. But, doesn’t this make each conversation held in only Italian, however difficult it might have been, more valuable?

No matter what small struggles I may experience here, the fact remains that Florence is, to date, my favorite place I’ve ever been. As my fellow students have already said over and over, being surrounded by history and art and beauty is not something one can get used to. The fact that I consistently use the Duomo as a meeting point for friends or Santa Croce as a landmark to get to someone’s apartment is just absurd. I am as sure as I can be that I will return to Florence, and I am even more sure that I will never, ever forget my time here. 

Grazie, Firenze.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ciao Ragazzi Belli!

Ciao mi amici! Come va?  I am here writing from Florence, Italy in my last month of studying abroad.  Let me start by how amazing of an opportunity I have had to come here.  Not everyone gets a chance to study overseas and so I am very thankful of this matter.  I really hope that if you ever get the chance to study in a different country that you take it no matter where it is, although I do recommend choosing Florence.

With a month left on my trip I have become very sad that this awesome journey in my life is coming to an end.  Since fall break, where I travelled to London, Amsterdam, and Ireland, time has been moving very quickly.  I have been making sure to make the best of all my time and appreciate every moment I have whether it is sitting through the art history of Florence at 9AM or going to the grocery store to pick up food.

Upon first arriving I was nervous and had no idea what to expect of my time here.  I did not know that I was going to be having the time of my life meeting awesome strangers and friends for life.  Living in the city center is something that I could already relate with because I am from New York City.  It has been very interesting for me seeing how another city works, especially one that has way more history than my own.  There is no Metro which is a huge difference but it makes sense because the city is relatively small and walking around to get places is never a problem, especially when there are so many beautiful sites to see.  Even the architecture of all the buildings is wonderful because many of them have sculptural designs making every building unique in its own way.

I am very interested in seeing what I will feel and how my perspective on life will change when I return to the states.  I for see it as being sad at first that I have left Florence but I am going to try and change my attitude to happiness because of the wonderful chance and experiences that I had overseas.

Here is a link to a stop motion video that I have created over looking the Arno, which is the main river that runs through Florence, hope you enjoy!

I am going to end on the note that if anyone chooses to study overseas you really have to make sure you embrace yourself in the culture and that you try everything that you would not be exposed to at home. Step out of your boundaries because although it can be uncomfortable it becomes worth it in the end.  Try your best to speak the language of the people and even try learning before your arrival (would have really helped if i followed this).  Also, try and make local friends because then you really can get a sense of the City and what the contemporary view of the city is.  I have made local friends here that I hope to have for life and will welcome into my home at any point in life.

Thanks for your time =D
enjoy some pictures from around Florence as well.
ciao ciao

Monday, November 18, 2013

Gelato Anyone?

Ciao ragazzi!

Being asked to reflect on my time here when I am so close to going home is a daunting task. I've seen and done so much that’s it’s hard to remember how it felt to arrive in Firenze and experience it all for the first time. Thinking back to the first few weeks I can safely say that I've adjusted well to Italian life, though I know that I will never really blend in here. I can manage the hectic grocery store checkout line like a pro and today I even smiled at the street vendors persistent attempts to use flattery as a sales tactic. I also realized that I have no idea where I left the folded and worn down map of Florence I used to cling to. Navigating the city has become automatic, maybe from nights of wandering around in whichever direction seemed most interesting, with the Arno and Duomo always there to lead me home.

Walking has always been one of my favorite pastimes and Florence has some of the best paths to offer. I love stumbling on bits of art everywhere I go. From ancient sculptures and frescoes to scrawled messages and graffiti, the streets of Florence never disappoint. I've even found poetry written on the crumbling walls I pass daily. There is inspiration everywhere I look, not only in the art of the city, but also in every marketplace and square. From fish laid out in il Mercato Centrale, to gowns displayed in shop windows, there are countless colors and forms to add to my sketchbook or snap a picture of. The culture that I am surrounded by never fails to surprise me with something new and exciting. I will always have a new street to turn down and a gelato flavor to discover here.

I’m also discovering new things about myself, as a person and as an artist. I've gained the confidence to travel on my own and maybe just a little more confidence in my artwork. Having the amazing opportunity to shoot photos of the Ponte Vecchio and sketch the skyline that holds the Duomo has opened my eyes to all of the things that I can create. The idea of returning home is bittersweet, but I’m excited to return to Storrs with new ideas and the drive to bring them to life. I’m not saying I've discovered what kind of artist I am, but for now I won’t let that decision bother me. If anything I've simply added more options to my list of possible careers in art.

With only a few weeks left I can safely say that this semester has been unforgettable, and there’s still time to squeeze in a couple more memories(and gelato flavors).


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Ciao Ragazzi!

Arrivaderci Frank!

Ciao amici, so here I am in Florence, a little more than halfway through the semester, a strange and confusing time to reflect upon. I feel as though I am already unintentially mentally preparing myself to the transition of returning to Storrs, CT and I find myself conflicted both about how I feel towards being here in Florence, and also about returning to the States.

Aside from that cryptic introduction, I want to say that the time spent here has been absolutely amazing. The spontaneous family dinners have been proof that all you need for a great meal is some pasta, vegetables, chicken, cheap wine, expensive olive oil, and maybe a language barrier. The sites and museums around the city have still not stopped to constantly deceive us with the importance of their collections inside by their convenience and attainability (apparently it IS possible to stumble upon Michelangelo’s gravesite without knowing it). Traveling has also become something that is expected of you to do every weekend, and because of how easy it is, I’ve seen and been to more places than I originally intended coming here (I’ve also spent more money than I intended as well).

It’s really interesting to compare my expectations of this experience with how it actually turned out, including what I would be doing here in terms of work, where I would travel during time off, what I would be doing with my free time, etc. One main difference is definitely present in the work that I do here. I’ve had more free time to develop my sketchbook further, but less access to studio space so the result is an entire new vocabulary of drawing that I would not have developed if I had not been in Italy. I’m also hoping that my lack of photo documentation of this experience won’t haunt me later, since each one of my drawings is a direct reflection of what I was looking at and what I experienced (at least to me, so I guess it’s a little selfish).

Anyways, I still hope to meet the rest of this semester with an open mind because I know for a fact that there are still experiences to be had, even though part of me is already looking forward to come back to a heavy work-load, multiple deadlines, and late nights. The reason for my excitement to go back is not as much homesick as it is an anxiousness to use what I’ve discovered here towards getting my career started. I do believe that this experience has had an incredible influence on me and I’m excited that it’s both almost over, and that there is still a good deal of time left to spend here


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It's Already Halfway Over

            According to everyone on the home front I am already halfway through my time abroad although it doesn't feel like it. I feel like I’m stuck in some sort of strange time warp.  At some points it seems as if I have been here for a week and other times it seems as if I have been here for years.  I feel that I will wake up on December 14th and this will all have been a dream.  Time feels like it has frozen back home but I know things will be different when I return.  I am in some sort of limbo…but what a fantastic limbo this is. 
            I have seen some of the most beautiful things, ate some of the most fantastic food, and met some of the most amazing people during my time in Florence.  All I want is more. I want to see more, to do more. After returning from my ten day break and barely skimming the surface on all the beauty that the world has to offer all I want is more. I wish there was a way I could wander forever; to get lost in the world but be okay with it.  I just want to travel the world and draw what I see.  I feel as if there is not enough time to see all there is to see and experience all there is to experience.  That’s just a fact of life though.  Everything seems too short and there is never enough time in a day. I just know this adventure will pass in the blink of an eye.
            Although my time here in Florence has been fantastic thus far not all of it has been a walk in the park and a spectacular adventure.  I have gotten used to the fact that I cannot understand most things people are saying or doing around me.   I have become somewhat comfortable with uncertainty even though I still get stressed with the unknown. I miss the little things at home; a simple chat with my Dad, playing video games with my brother, and getting into random shenanigans with my friends.  It’s strange that although I miss these things I don’t find myself getting homesick.  This whole experience confuses me because I am acting differently than how I would have expected.  I would have expected to be more homesick, but I would rather have my family come and stay with me here if that was at all possible. I still get half way upset when exciting things are happening back home.  Why should I be upset though?  I’m on the adventure of a lifetime, right? 
            I sit here now writing this unsure of how I will feel by the time I need to return to the States. I know I will be overjoyed to see my friends, family, boyfriend, and dogs (can’t forget the puppies).  I don’t know if I will feel lost though.  I am afraid that going home things will be different and I will have to re-adapt to a place that I should feel most comfortable.  Hopefully everything will be as it was, if not better.  One thing I do know though and I realized this as soon as I landed in Florence in August; my time here will be one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  

Street Artist in Piazza della Repubblica, Florence, Italy

The Dome of the Reichstag, Berlin, Germany

View of Paris from The Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France

The Louvre, Paris, France 

Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France

Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France

Park Guell, Barcelona, Spain

Monday, October 28, 2013

Florence, Italy -Chloe Griffasi

Even though I am only half way done with the semester abroad I have learned so much. One thing I have learned is how ones culture greatly affects how one matures. Before I studied abroad I was used to being around people that lived in similar areas to me, had the same childhood, went though the same education system etc. However, now abroad, I am meeting people from Australia, China, California, and Texas etc. When talking to them I gain a new insight on their upbringing; I learn about their environments, how they were brought up, their education, their favorite music, what they see as appropriate/inappropriate and so much more. From talking to all these different people I realize that ones culture shapes one to who he/she is. For an example, my friend from Korea told me that because there education system is so strict there is no time or importance to socialize with others. Therefore, people coming from Korea may be more closed off to others. However in America there is an even balance of achieving a good education along with having friends. With all of the support I have with my friends I can’t imagine how life would be without them.

With such diverse cultures in the world there are numerous differences between individuals. Therefore it is important is be open to everyone’s outlook on life. By being open to others you can learn more about them and the world that you live in, which makes you a well-rounded individual. Before I left for Florence all of this knowledge seemed obvious, but from now experiencing it I have a better understanding.

Chloe Griffasi

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A World Away

So life in these past weeks has been different to say the least. I no longer have easy access to essential-to-my-life condiments like Skippy Peanut Butter, Heinz Ketchup and Hidden Valley Ranch dressing, I no longer have a wide variety of clothes to choose from in the morning, and I don't have that wonderfully polluted NYC air seeping into my lungs with every breath I take. I miss it, but instead I have plenty of all natural marmalade, homemade tomato sauce and Nutella, an interesting (and growing) assortment of handmade jewelry, and... secondhand cigarette smoke making my risk of lung problems skyrocket, I'm sure. While day to day life has changed significantly in the time I have been in Florence, in the grand scheme of things, it somehow feels right. I walk through narrow streets, surrounded on all sides by buildings that have been standing for centuries. I use historical and artistic masterpieces as landmarks on my walks to unfamiliar places. I see, touch and have an entire experience with the art I have always studied and admired. It is like a dream.

I can only wish that some of the values I see existing in daily life for the Italians follow me back to the States. People here take time to get dressed, because it is important how they present themselves to the world, they take the time to shop for groceries daily, because fresh food is better for them, and they take the time to slow down, because each action is important and it should have all their attention. The pace of life is drastically slower here than in the States, particularly in New York City. I can't even remember the last time I sat with my family to have a meal. It was probably last Thanksgiving. I hope that after living here for four months I can go home and try to change that.

Other than that, as everyone can imagine, I'm having an amazing time and I can't wait for the upcoming weeks here in Florence and abroad!