Cultural Experience | Florence

A Day in the Life of a Student in Florence

Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life

By Caitlin McConnell, Marist College

Last spring, I made the biggest and best decision of my life to pack up my bags and dive into a semester abroad in Florence, Italy. This place, also referred to as Firenze, blessed me with so many experiences and memories that I will forever hold on to. Each and every day, was new and exciting. Being in an unfamiliar place was scary at first, but as the time went by, I felt like a local. By the end of the semester, I learned how to assimilate with the culture and it helped me to adapt to the Italians and also for them to adapt to me.

Anyone who is trying to make the decision if they should choose Florence as a location to study abroad is wondering what a typical day would be like there. I hope that with my experience, I can help show you what that would be like! 


If I woke up early enough, I would be able to get a run in around the Arno River on the narrow, bumpy sidewalks. Florence is not the best place to get exercise outdoors because if it were to be any later than the morning, these narrow, bumpy sidewalks would be crowded with large packs of people roaming around the city. However, gym memberships are an option! Almost every day during the week, I had a 9 a.m. class to attend. If I did not have time to eat a bowl of cereal in my apartment, I would stop at the café at the corner of my block and enjoy “un cappuccino per favore” and a pastry with the locals. I would then go on to cross the Santa Trinita bridge that over looked the Ponte Vecchio, which is my favorite view in the city. This would always remind me of how lucky I was to be in such an amazing place.

I would continue on my path to my class (all of my classes were from a 10 to 20 minute walk) and cross through my favorite street, Via de’ Tornabuoni, which had every high – end designer that I admired (Gucci, Pucci, Ferragamo, you name it!) After window shopping and admiring new displays, I would continue on my final stretch to Piazza Strozzi, where most of my classes were held.


Once the middle of the day arrived, I would usually make lunch in my apartment in order to save money. I would usually whip up a quick salad or some pasta. My housemates and I would also like to use this time to explore if we did not have class. We would walk for miles on end and get lost in the city, which was the best way for us to learn our surroundings. We would try all different kinds of gelaterias until we determined which were the best ones and go in and out of local shops that helped us to learn the culture. We would use this time to do things like take a hike up Piazzale Michelangelo to see the view of the city or visit the Boboli Gardens and lie in the grass and do homework.

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Watching the sunset on Florence at the top of Piazzale Michelangelo

Florence always had different festivals in the Santa Maria Novella courtyard, so we would make sure to attend those. My favorite one would have to be the chocolate festival! Once it became around 3 p.m. we would take a siesta like the rest of the locals since most of the shops close at this time for a couple hours so that the Italians can get some relaxation. I always admired how they value their rest and well- being and do not have a tendency to become workaholics like many Americans do.


When it came to grocery shopping, my housemates and I discovered the closest grocery store, called Conad, where we would stop at either once a day or every other day. We had to shop for groceries frequently because all of the food was very fresh and did not last long. One thing that we found frustrating at first was that all items in the store had Italian descriptions and we had to carry a dictionary around with us in order to know what we were purchasing. Luckily, we were all required to take an Italian language class, which helped with this. Our apartment did not have a microwave, toaster or anything of the sort, so lean cuisines and waffles were out of the question!  I had to buy a lot of food that I had to prepare on the stove and the oven. This did not make me happy at first, but I learned to enjoy the process of making good quality food even if it did take more time than I was used to.

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Delicious, fresh food!

After dinner, I would usually have some homework to get done, especially if I had a trip planned for the weekend. I had a lot of group projects and papers and would not say that my school had a light workload. A lot of my classes were very small and interactive; therefore, they required participation, so I could not slack! Art History was a course that surprised me- I did not realize how much I would have to memorize about works of art (including time periods and specific dates!) and it took up a lot more time than expected. However, I did enjoy the class because it helped me to learn about the history of Florence and I would be able to recognize sculptures and paintings that I saw around the city and know the story behind them. The nightlife in Florence is thriving! There are a variety of places to go out with friends whether it is grabbing a dragoon at Kikuya, getting a cocktail at Naima or dancing the night away at Full Up, one is guaranteed to have a good time!

Caitlin McConnell

Marist College | 12 stories

Caitlin is a senior at Marist College studying public relations and fashion merchandising. She enjoys being active, shopping and spending time with friends and family. She is also a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. She has gained valuable experiences through interning at companies such as Seventeen Magazine in New York City and traveling abroad to Florence, Italy for a semester. She fell in love with Europe and dreams of traveling to new places to further explore cultures, languages and traditions!

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