Ciao ragazze! My name is Sofia Cortez and I am a sophomore studying Marketing and Sustainable Business. I am also the current USWIB Liaison for NYU Florence! Apart from my love for Italian food and interest for history and art, I chose this study away site because of the available courses, the BEAUTIFUL paradise of a campus we have here, and the chance to get to learn a new language.
I’ve been here for around three weeks now, and I absolutely love it. The city of Florence is relatively small and very walkable, so I have surely been burning those vitamin P’s (AKA panini, pizza, & pasta)! Getting lost here turns out to be quite an enjoyable experience as well. Every corner you turn, especially around the center of the city, has a cool street-art piece to admire (take a look at the traffic signs!) or a new gelateria to try out. During my first few days here, I took advantage of the free museum entry that happens every first Sunday of the month to visit the Uffizi Gallery. Let me tell you, it was very well worth the 40 min line! I also really enjoy going to school here because of how absolutely gorgeous the campus is. There are 5 villas, lots of olive trees, beautiful gardens, and a bonus workout session you get every day from walking across campus through a valley appropriately nicknamed “The Valley of Death” (designed so that you DEFINITELY annihilate those vitamin P’s). Travelling around Italy is also very easy, which has given me the chance to see a little more of Tuscany and of other regions in Italy.
Although I have LOVED my Florentine experience so far, one of my favorite things has been living in a homestay. Although, like everything in life, this living situation has its drawbacks, the positives I’ve gotten out of this experience have definitely made me very happy that I chose this option over the other two. Being able to dive a little deeper into Italy is something that I really wanted to get out of living in Florence, and my homestay has been the perfect way to do that. If you’re thinking about choosing this option, here are a couple of (positive and not-so-positive) things I believe you should consider:
- Food: Unless you choose to stay in a homestay without meals, you will not have complete control over what you eat every day, as you won’t have access to a kitchen and will only be responsible for providing your own lunch. NYU informs the homestay families about your dietary restrictions, so those will definitely not be a problem, and the families themselves will ask you if there is anything you don’t like to eat or even if you would like something specific prepared for you. However, you will not have complete power over exactly what, or when, you eat every day. I personally enjoy this surprise factor, as I get to try new things and discover new dishes I wouldn’t see in restaurants otherwise. Breakfast is a little anti-climactic, “la colazione” here only consisting of a cup of coffee or juice with a small croissant or some cookies. Dinner, however, is a different story. Getting authentic Italian food EVERY SINGLE NIGHT is AMAZING and something I absolutely love! Bonus points for always getting home-cooked meals!
- People: Homestays usually only house one or two students in each home. While most of the students living in on and off-campus will be spending the majority of their day surrounded by other students (as some apartments have as many as 13 students living in one suite), you will most likely be spending most of your “home” time surrounded by the host family and, if you are placed in a homestay with another student, with your “homestay-mate.” This can feel a little isolating sometimes, since you aren’t surrounded by activity all the time and can be a little farther away from everyone else. On the other hand, though, when you come back from school, you come back to an actual home, which I really like. Having peace and quiet when I want it, but being able to go out of my room for conversation when I want it too, has been working out really great for me. Overall, getting that cozy homey feeling after a long day is something I really enjoy and prevents me from getting homesick too often.
- Time & Space: Because homestays require you to live in someone else’s home, you will have to learn to adapt, to a certain extent, to different ways of living and different household dynamics. In my case, for example, I don’t have to worry about taking out the trash or washing dishes, which is nice. I also don’t have to do my own laundry, which is generally a good thing (except during those times when you are running out of winter PJ’s in the middle of a cold front and don’t know when you will have clean ones again). Since the bathroom is shared, I usually shower at night so that I don’t interrupt anyone’s morning routine or make anyone late. While apartment kids get to have guests whenever they want, you should always ask your host family if and when it would be OK to bring someone over in advance. Of course, these are things that you would have to keep in mind when living with roommates anyway. However, you should be a little more mindful when you’re in a homestay, simply because you are living in someone else’s home. Also, generally, keep in mind that there will be some things you are used to doing for yourself that you won’t have control over.
- Culture & Language: If you are looking to become more immersed in the Italian culture and language, a homestay is the perfect option for you! Seeing how family members interact with each other, talking to them about what they do, and asking them about all sorts of different things has really given me a more nuanced understanding of Italian culture and a better sense of what Italian every-day life looks like. This is something that, although overwhelming at times, was very important for me in terms of what I wanted to get out of my study away experience, and I can tell you there is no better way to do this than in a homestay. In terms of language, since I am the only student in the homestay and my host doesn’t speak English, coming home is like having a second Italian class on steroids. This can be a little exhausting at times, but I find it mostly fun and entertaining. Out of a need to be able to communicate and understand what I am being told, I have picked up Italian a little faster than I think I would have had I not been in a homestay. For example, I learned some vocabulary words and sentence structures way before they were touched upon in class. I am also forced to speak Italian (or at least attempt some Yoda talk in Italian) much more often than I think I would if I lived in an apartment. Although this can get a little frustrating sometimes, I think it’s one of the most practical ways for me to learn the language. I find it’s also easier to remember words if you know you will need them again tomorrow, so that never hurts either!
As you can see, my dear reader, homestays are not for everyone. They have their good, and their bad, like everything else. They are also not a better or worse experience than any of the other options. I will say though, that they definitely provide for a different kind of experience than the other choices you have. If you think this is the right thing for you, GO FOR IT! Sure, it can be a little scary, and it’s definitely not what most people do, but despite having to deal with confusing bus routes and steeper language barriers, it is definitely one of the most enriching aspects of my experience here in Florence! I’m very excited to see what other great things this city has for me, and I can’t wait to share them with all of you! Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions about homestay life or anything about Florence.