Deep in the cobblestone alleys of Florence, the Secret Bakery churns out pastries throughout the night to stock the Florentine cafés each morning. When Gaby Berger heard of the mysterious shop, she knew the only way to find it was by sniffing through the streets after midnight. After following her nose for hours, she finally found the Secret Bakery and bought her weight in bread and pastries.
But more than just glutenous treats await Chapman students in Tuscany’s capital city.
“The culture is so rich in a place like Florence, and you’ll never find another place like it. I love everything about Florence,” said Berger, a senior and business administration-entrepreneurship major. “I felt so comfortable and welcomed in that city, and I almost feel that if I were to wake up in Florence tomorrow morning, it would feel like I hadn’t left.”
Today, studying abroad in Florence, Italy has become a top choice among Chapman students for its rich culture, history and endless charm.
According to Remy Bessolo, a peer advisor at the Center for Global Education, and a junior studying integrated education studies, Italy is one of the top five destinations that Chapman students choose, among the United Kingdom, Spain, France and Australia.
For students, walking about Florence is like strolling through a real-life museum, featuring Michelangelo masterpieces, carefully crafted pasta dishes and architectural jewels. A place like Florence presents a chance for Chapman students to grow and appreciate life outside of Orange County.
For Molly Simpson, a senior communication studies major, art and architecture lover, Florence was an easy choice.
Negin Ehsanipour, a junior and strategic and corporate communication major, chose Florence to challenge herself, chase adventure and encounter new cultures.
“In Florence, I learned to lean into every challenge and every day,” said Ehsanipour. “I learned to push myself, because I can do more and am capable of more than I give myself credit for. I went abroad with no friends and had no safety net and I came home having experienced so many new things with two new best friends that I wouldn’t have made without my time abroad.”
Study breaks at her favorite gelateria, watching sunsets over pizza at Piazzale Michelangelo and experiencing Florence’s beauty were Ehsanipour’s favorite pastimes while abroad.
Simpson echoed Ehsanipour’s sentiments. “The most important thing I learned while abroad was that the world is huge. It’s important to put yourself out there and be in an uncomfortable place, in order to learn more about yourself. I learned that I am more open than I thought I was.”
Berger explained that her time in Florence helped her grow as a person. She learned how to “feel comfortable in a strange environment” and now understands how to adapt, even when she is completely on her own.
“Studying abroad in Florence taught me how to be independent and uninfluenced by what others do, which has benefited my confidence, happiness, and my well-being as a whole,” said Berger. “It is okay to want to do something different than others. I learned a lot about the world, some good and some bad, but I do know that the world is a place I want to keep learning about.”
Berger loves to share her bad stories, too, because they were some of her most important life lessons.
Her favorite story goes like this. While boarding a train, a group of young girls surrounded Berger. Immediately, she felt someone inside her purse, and before she knew it, she was chasing the girls down the platform to get her cell phone back. She singled out the thief, and made a scene, yelling and screaming. Quickly, Berger snatched the phone back and bolted onto the train before its doors slammed shut.
Simpson’s favorite story to share was when, two months into her study abroad program, she and her roommate decided to explore the city on foot, but became hopelessly lost in the hills of Florence. “Neither of us panicked, though, because we were at peace with being adventurous and spontaneous,” said Simpson. “We took pictures by these pretty little houses and saw Italian people walking by with their groceries.”
“I knew, right then, that I would remember that moment forever,” said Simpson.