Education Abroad Student Blog: Florence Summer Institute

Wondering what it’s like to study abroad? Hear from Kristopher Franczak, a Kent State University student who spent a glorious summer at our Center in Florence, Italy.

Did I ever think I’d study abroad in Italy?

Traveling was never something that I thought I’d like before I studied abroad in Europe.

Prior to taking the leap to study in Florence this past June, the thought of even leaving my little American bubble had stricken me with crushing anxiety. I was constantly asking myself questions about what could go wrong, like “What if I forget something at home?” or maybe “What if my phone gets broken and I won’t be able to contact my family at home?” My mind was haunted by “What if this? … What if that?”

Kent State does provide a lot of resources to help students before they go abroad, however, my mind was my worst enemy. All the “what if’s” I asked myself at every turn of the application process didn’t do much to help me feel less anxious about getting on a plane and flying for 10+ hours to a country, nay, an entire continent that I knew close to nothing about.

I had no idea what to expect.  

Sunrise view of Florence, Italy from Piazzale Michelangelo, there is a hot air balloon over the river.

How would I feel when I arrived overseas?

Everything changed when I finally landed in the beautiful city of Florence.

Instead of feeling trapped or isolated from the rest of the world as I had expected, I rather felt a sense of overwhelming interconnectedness with the world and pure freedom as soon as I stepped out of the airport and breathed in the warm Italian summer air.

All of that anxiety I felt at Pittsburgh International Airport as I boarded my first plane suddenly seemed undeniably useless to me, replaced instead with wanderlust and a sense of home I don’t think I could ever find in America.

There lay an entire city filled with culture, history, food, and art, all ripe for exploration: and all of it was entirely new to me. For lack of a better metaphor, it made me feel like a kid again.

I had a new start, a chance to escape my life for a month and not have to worry about any of the trifles inside my little bubble back home.

I suddenly didn’t worry about adjusting. I didn’t worry about how far away I was from my old world. I just wanted to explore, to change. And both of those, I did. 

Kris standing with arms out in front of the Colosseum in Rome

How much can you achieve by studying abroad for a summer?

I did so much in the following weeks.

  • I went to a vast array of intricate Renaissance-era Florentine churches.
  • I saw famous pieces of art I had only seen from the receiving end of a screen, one of my favorites being Caravaggio’s Medusa at the Uffizi Gallery.
  • I tasted the best food I’ve ever had and sipped the most delectable coffee every morning.
  • I took trains to Venice, Rome, and Siena on my free weekends.
  • I walked, and walked, and walked some more.
  • I met so many amazing people and made a lot of good friends, including famous Hollywood director Don Reo.

Above all, though, I learned.

Studying abroad gave me access to incredible experiences

The two classes I took provided me with many of these opportunities to learn:

  1. Art Experiences in Italy with Professor Gustav Medicus;
  2. Traveling and Writing with Professor Alice Cone.

Both of these classes were absolutely amazing experiences!

My art class took me to all the main museums of Florence free of charge and gave me a much deeper understanding and appreciation of art as a whole. Although we didn’t go to as many museums in my creative writing class, we traveled to so many different parts of the city and wrote about them that I can’t even remember all that I did.

I got a sense of the city that the average tourist wouldn’t even begin to have access to these types of 

There are also plenty of other classes that are available for KSU Florence students to learn from if art history or creative writing isn’t your forte.

Forging friendships for life through study abroad

My roommates (and the extended friend group which I met there) were also a riot to be around. I believe the people you surround yourself with during an experience like this is a key factor in making it enjoyable, as my experience definitely wouldn’t have been the same without them. Every time I think of all the wonderful memories I made with the friends I lived and studied with, I can’t help but smile!

Overall, leaping out of my bubble and exposing myself to the pleasures and cultures of Italy was one of the best life decisions I have ever made, and proved to be infinitely more enriching than I could ever expect it to be.

If you’re even thinking about going to Florence, just do it. You absolutely won’t regret it!

Learn more about Kent State’s Florence Summer Institute in Italy!

Kris and three friends standing together in front of the Duomo in Florence
POSTED: Monday, October 16, 2023 10:23 AM
Updated: Friday, April 26, 2024 02:58 PM
Kristopher Franczak, Intern for the Office of Global Education