This isn’t my first time out of the country, but Italy is considerably different from Canada and China. There are similarities, such as the surrealism of standing in front of the David knowing Michelangelo once looked up in the same way, and being overwhelmed while standing in a temple in Hong Kong, knowing it is older than your own country.

But Florence also has the familiarity of Canada, because while you may be unable to read any signs most native Florentines speak English and are willing to help you with anything. Except finding the free Sunday bus to Ikea, because apparently nobody knows about that.

From day one in Florence you are surrounded by buildings and sculptures older than the average American student can comprehend. So it’s safe to say I underestimated the human ability to become accustomed to things, the first few days, every time I walked out of my apartment I would stare at the Duomo in disbelief. I was actually here. Freshman year Art History is basically a list of great works that reside in Italy, and I was actually here beside them. But now at the end of the second week, while walking to my apartment through a sea of tourists, weighed down by two hundred euros worth of art supplies, I am more concerned with the brie cheese and pasta I have in the fridge.

After walking around guided by Google maps I have a small map of the Florence city center in my head, just enough to get to the cheap coffee shops, €4 panini place, and many great gelato places. Also, after the initial shock of being in a grocery store where you can’t read any of the labels, you learn to buy things that have pictures or are coated in saran wrap. Or maybe you want to go in for the adventure. Ask the locals what they recommend from coffee shops, restaurants, and museums and enjoy the discovery. Each of the times I’ve followed advice I haven’t been lead astray.

So while even in a different country, on a different continent, studio art classes are basically the same everywhere: expensive and intense. I don’t know what else I expected out of Lorenzo De’ Medici; however, learning about techniques and methods in the city or country they were discovered in lessens the sting of limited weekend travel, at least a little. I’ve only had a week of classes so far, but we are doing at least one field trip this year in all of my classes. Either to a museum or villa outside of Florence, so don’t think your classes are going to be exactly the same as they are in Menomonie.

Growing up in small town Wisconsin (Specifically Woodville, population 1,357) gives you a small image of the world, and my mom drove my two sisters and I to challenge that image at every opportunity. This ranged from driving me up to four times a week into the Twin Cities to practice at Twin Cities Fencing Club, to reading, to urging all of us to study abroad from an early age. So when it came to picking a city and leaving the country I was only mildly TERRIFIED so the only thing that helped me through was knowing that if I didn’t go I would always regret it. Now that I am here I am trying to take every opportunity to explore and get out. I have a trip planned for every weekend of February as well as a growing list of museums and restaurants to try in Florence. It’s only four months and I have got to make it last.

-Jane Gadbois



This is the fake David,the real one is in the Academia and you aren’t allowed to take photos with it.


img_0877This is the view from our apartment.




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