Four Things I Wish NYU Told Me Before I Studied Abroad in Florence
December 1, 2017
NYU Florence is known to be one of the most beautiful study away sites NYU has to offer. Most study away sites have dedicated academic buildings. NYU Florence, on the other hand, has an entire campus — something not even the New York location has. NYU Florence is a gated community. It boasts residence halls in addition to academic buildings, one of which is also a villa that displays art.
Students can choose to study indoors, such as in the Villa Ulivi Library, or outdoors in the gardens. And scattered around campus are olive trees, which students can help harvest to make olive oil. Outside the enclosed campus’s gates, however, is another experience that Florence has to offer for those seeking to immerse themselves in Italian culture.
Florence is an outdated city.
When people say that going to Florence is like entering the Renaissance, they’re not joking. Because Florence is so keen on the preservation of its art, architecture and overall Renaissance culture, it lacks effective modernization in areas where it is necessary — such as public transportation. This can be an issue for students, especially upperclassmen, since a majority of them live off campus in apartments or homestays.
“The buses never seem to run,” Tisch junior Anchal Goyal said. “They’re unreliable, but it’s the only way to get around the city besides the taxi, which is expensive,”
Unfortunately, there is no other form of public transportation like a subway system, which is not compatible with Florence’s prioritization of cultural preservation.
Italy, like many other European countries, has a white majority. And again, like Europe, Italy has little exposure toward minorities and their cultures. As a result, Italians can come off as racist due to this ignorance.
People of color commonly face microaggressions due to misconceptions about their own culture. For example, I, an Asian-American, had someone ask me if I was from China within the first week of being in Florence. In addition, every other week or so, people shout “Ni hao!” at me. And my experience is not unique. Tisch senior Marishka Douzable has had similar experiences.
“There’s been multiple incidents where Italians just stare at me,” Douzable said. “It’s like they’ve never seen a person of color before.”
The lack of racial and cultural diversity in Italy can make students of color much more aware of how their outward appearances affect the way they are perceived, and that’s something to prepare for. Though the United States has issues of its own, when it comes to racism Europe is a whole other experience.
Consent is different in Italy than it is in America.
Sexual consent is less defined in Italy than it is in America.
Gallatin junior Léa Amzallag explains that men don’t understand the concept of no.
“It’s hard to make friends with Italian guys,” Amzallag said. “They expect something more than just a friendship. I was trying to practice my Italian at a bar with this Italian guy, and he said, ‘Come on, just kiss me. We’re having a good time, no?’ He was being very insisting.”
If you don’t speak Italian, locals sometimes don’t care to help you.
There are some Florentines who appreciate and encourage study abroad students who practice their Italian, but unfortunately, these Florentines are not the majority. On many occasions, if students don’t speak Italian well, people don’t bother helping them resolve issues. For example, I’ve had customer service representatives just hang up on me once they realize I don’t speak Italian.
Fortunately, the Office of Student Life is available 24/7 for students when it comes to issues such as these. NYU Florence faculty members know both Italian and English, so they can help with translation.
No matter where you choose to study abroad, remember to be prepared for the unexpected.
Email Veronica Liow at email@example.com.