Florence – It’s that time of year again- the time of year when the number of tourists drops in Florence, and the American students swarm in to take their place. Florence is one of the top study abroad destinations for American students. Every year the city is flooded with more than 8,000 students from the United States, participating in one of more than 40 different study abroad programs.
According to a 2014 study, conducted by the International Education Exchange, Italy ranked second highest in study abroad destinations for US students. The study reported that 10.3 percent of American students who study abroad come to Italy.
American students studying in Florence might have a bad reputation for doing more partying than studying, but work and study opportunities are still the main reason most American students choose this city.
For these students, study abroad represents a chance to experience a new culture, travel the world and get out of their comfort zone. For Nicole Kawahara, a fashion merchandising student from Hawaii, coming to Florence also meant a new perspective on her studies.
“I just figured what is a better place to learn about fashion than Italy? Italian fashion is completely different,” Kawahara said. “Coming here and learning about fashion is just something I’ve always dreamed of.”
For Alison Jones, an applied mathematics major from California, Florence represented a chance to marry two passions: math and wine. Jones is currently interning at a vineyard near Florence when she’s not taking Italian classes, and someday she hopes to get a job working on irrigation systems back in California.
“I chose Italy because I’ve always wanted to come here, ever since I was little. My dad’s Italian, and I’ve seen pictures and it’s just always seemed so gorgeous,” Jones said. “I picked Florence because it’s close to the wine country, and wine is something I’m passionate about. I hope to work in the industry someday.”
For Emma Lewis, a community health major at a school in South Carolina, studying in Italy provided an opportunity to explore interests outside of her major.
“I really love art history, so I wanted to study here because of the art,” said Lewis. “Coming to Italy has always been a dream of mine, and I also loved that I could travel to other cities while I was here.”
Even though they come to study, it’s the Italian way of life that these students enjoy most. “Umm.. the food” Kawahara said when asked what she’s enjoyed most about the city. “The food and the people. My Italian’s not that great, but it’s nice knowing that the locals appreciate the effort.”
“I love the culture. It’s just so different from what I’m used to,” Jones said. “There’s so much history everywhere. And I love that everyone seems more relaxed. No one really rushes here, which is a nice change of pace.”
With the amazing food, people and way of life, it’s no wonder so many Americans choose to study in Florence every year. That, plus the increasingly better exchange rate between euros and dollars, is sure to keep Florence at the top of study abroad destinations for US students.