The last time I got ice cream during school it was probably a reward for my 5th grade class having been deemed the most frequent and efficient group of readers at East Side Elementary School in regard to earning Accelerated Reader points. I definitely can’t remember a teacher ever suggesting that we all go out and get coffee (or anything, for that matter) during class—that is, until I got to Florence.
Since classes commenced in beautiful Italia, it has proven completely normal for my professors to weave the simple pleasures of Italian life into required course work; it’s not unusual for my Italian professor to open lecture by suggesting that we move to a bar (café) where we can continue class over cappuccinos, or for my Renaissance Florence professor to decide that he could use a gelato at the end of class and, therefore, that the entire class could use one. Studying abroad in Florence is better than being a kid again.
Regular class outings are part of the immersive learning experience that is motivation for Indiana students to tackle degree requirements abroad. As journalism major, I am required to complete the same general education requirements that haunt all IU students (some into their senior year) along with four semesters of language. Now, don’t get me wrong; I think that the Italian language is beautiful and I have especially liked speaking it on a daily basis, but I don’t exactly love it enough to consider hiking up to the 4th floor of Ballantine, four days a week at 8 AM in anticipation of the impending one hour ban on the English language a rousing good time.
Prior to coming to Florence, Italian class was just something I engaged in autonomously; I had to participate, so I did. After living close to an Italian lifestyle over the past 16 days, I speak the language with more fluidity and I study it more vigorously. Locals are no longer responding with, “Americana?” or an answer in English when I ask where I can find the bathroom or how much something costs. I not only feel immersed in the world that is Italian language and culture; I almost feel like I belong in it.
Renaissance Florence is an art history course that fulfills a gen ed. requirement and focuses on many of the major artistic works by the Florentine during the Renaissance. We have been and will continue learning and analyzing the historical background and creative significance behind a countless number of masterpieces, from world-famous sculptures like Michelangelo’s “David” to architectural feats like The Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiori by Brunelleschi). If I had taken this course in a typical classroom back in Bloomington, you can bet that I would have been checking my email or checking to-do’s off my list as the professor lectured in front of a PowerPoint filled with photographs of Renaissance artwork. Instead, I am in Florence. I stand inches from these creative spectacles that have survived 600+ years and awed millions, as my professor shares varied interpretations regarding the tiniest details in the syllabus items of the day.
Being abroad in Florence has already, two weeks in, provided me with a camera full of memories and a character more accepting of cultures and adaptive to change. The studying abroad presents class material in a way that sticks with me—even me, a girl with less artistic ability than your average classroom goldfish cant help but express a desire and an interest in learning more about the culture and history of what is essentially home for six weeks. Maybe, even though I am too old to see a bowl of ice cream (even with sprinkles) as powerful motivation to achieve my goals, the elementary school teachers used a few other effective teaching tools like hands-on learning, field trips and free time that are reappearing in my current classes and inspiring me to learn with the vigor I had when I could still order from the kids menu.