Italy: Culture & Psychology blog

Did you know one of our student groups in Italy is keeping a blog of their time abroad? See their posts and mouth-watering photos on our blog:

Here’s a sneak peek!

“Viewing and learning about these works allowed me to better understand how the history of each piece is linked to the cultural beliefs, mental practices, and behavior.  I am excited to experience more of Italy’s artwork and cultural works.”

“The architecture and design of the gallery was my favorite part. The light was a warm glow and made the experience feel welcoming while the ceilings were meticulously painted with various portraits and depictions of historical or religious scenes. Though I wish I understood more of the Italian language, in reality, the beauty of the artwork needed no explanation.”

Spring 2015 Photo Contest Winners!

Thank you to all our world-traveling students who submitted their amazing photos from their time abroad! We received nearly 40 entries and received over 1,000 votes from social media, orientation meetings and our bon voyage social.

We are excited to announce our Spring 2015 winners:

1st Place – Allie Menzel: Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

2nd Place – Sydney Davino: Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy

3rd Place – Katherine Roberts: Paris, France

Paris, France

Paris, France

Summer 2015 Faculty-Led Program: Culture & Psychology: Italy from a Psychological Perspective

Culture & Psychology: Italy from a Psychological Perspective

Courses: PSYC 494/594 Travel and Study Abroad in Psychology

Fearless Leaders: Dr. David Earnest

Site visits: St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican in Rome, as well as the Pantheon, Colossuem, and Ancient Forum. Students will also spend a long weekend in Florence where they will tour the Florence Duomo, Santa Maria dei Fiori, and the Leonardi da Vinci Museum, among other cultural attractions.

Did you know that Vatican City is the only nation in the world that can lock its own gates at night. It has its own phone company, radio, T.V. stations, money, and stamps. It even has its own army, the historic Swiss Guard!

To see the Horizons program page click here!

What to Know about Florence, Italy

Trivial things I learned in Florence

Name: Kim Le
Major: Art and Design
Hometown: Hochimin, Vietnam
Destination: Florence, Italy
Institution: TU in Italy: Lorenzo de’Medici, Florence campus

1. Street signs are on the buildings, not on a pole in the corner, or hanging in the middle of the streets. And since most of them are so old and made of stone, chance are good that they are hard to read, missing letters, or better yet, covered by construction.

Florence, Italy study abroad

Signs in Florence, Italy

2. There are water fountains. Drinkable water fountains, though I am somewhat wary since a professor told me back in the day they recycled the old marble coffins as bowls for these water fountains. However, since the Florence tourist website says it is safe to drink this water, I would assume that I am just being paranoid. Still, the water fountains are everywhere in the city, and they have very cool decorations.

3. It will rain or it will shine–actually, it will  probably do both. Weather forecasts are not accurate in Florence, for whenever it wants to rain or shine, the weather completely disregards the forecast. I have had weekends when the forecast said there would be thunderstorm, and it turned out perfectly sunny, and vice versa. Tip? Bring an umbrella all time, and maybe, maybe, if I really want to take that perfect trip, just ignore the rainy forecast and hope for the best.

4. Move away, there is a horse! Yes, there are horses walking on Florence’s streets, mostly in the historic center, but it is a very real possibility that someone might get in the way of a horse or two. They are only for touristic purposes, but still, it is amusing trying to avoid a horse carriage while walking to class.

Florence, Italy Study Abroad

Horses galore in Florence, Italy!

5. Churches, churches everywhere! I lost count of how many churches I walk pass on my way to the market, the river or basically anywhere. While most churches are in Italian (as they should be!), there are some churches that offer mass in English, including the great Duomo. Most churches themselves deserve to be a tourist attraction for their architectural style and ages, plus some even have creepy ghost stories of their own!


Life in Florence: The Small Things

Forget about tourist attractions, it is the small things that matter.

Name: Kim Le
Major: Art and Design
Hometown: Hochimin, Vietnam
Destination: Florence, Italy
Institution: TU in Italy: Lorenzo de’Medici, Florence campus

So, a thing about living in a famous city with countless visitors all around the year is sometimes I forgot Florence is a tourist destination. I would wake up everyday, rushing to class, waiting impatiently for the tourists who are snapping pictures of the Duomo to please, please move away and stop blocking the sidewalk (and do you really need to take that many pictures, seriously?! A side note: yes, they do, and so did I, at the beginning at least).

The point is, I stopped treating Florence like a vacation place the moment I greeted her at the airport, knowing she is my lover for the next three months. Rather than jumping around the hottest attraction, I spent my time finding out the good cafés and grocery stores, the food markets and places to hang out–everything that would help me fit right in with the lovely city I am having the incredible luck to explore. Sure I went to the museums and historical places, but it is more like ‘let’s see what’s around the neighborhood’ than ‘I need to see that museum and this market and did you even know this restaurant ranks 5 stars on TripAdvisor?!’

Antica Gelateria Florentina, Italy Study Abroad

Kim suggests everyone try out the Antica Gelateria Florentina in Florence, Italy.

Just a note, this gelateria on my way to class is an absolutely must for anyone who visit Florence.

As I spend so much time walking around the city, people watching is my favorite game all these months. To this day, it still amuses me seeing Italians wearing thick coats and scarves even when it is around 60 -70 F outside. Florence is hot, much hotter than Towson, and I for one sure cannot wear these coats and keep a straight face walking around! Apparently, clothes are the best way to tell between locals and tourists, as my Italian professor told us that no Italian would ever consider wearing shorts. Shorts = tourists. Tried and true! Another small thing I appreciate are the dogs! People here take their dogs on a walk all the time, so I took on a new habit: cooing (internally) over all the cute dogs walking around the city!

Florence, Italy Study Abroad

Kim loves all of dog-walkers around Florence, Italy!

Mini 2015 Faculty-Led Program: History of Venice in Italy

History of Venice from the Maritime Republic to the Modern Days

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Venice, Italy

Courses: ITAL 101-301 OR ITAL 370 and ITAL 494

Fearless Leader: Dr. Margherita Pampinella-Cropper

Excursions: Isle of Murano in the Venetian Lagoon, the city of Verona, and a weekend trip to Florence

Did you know Venice is held up by wood pilings on the 118 submerged islands in the Northern end of the Adriatic Sea? No wonder it looks like a magical floating city!

Are you a little nervous about traveling to a city that floats?  Check out this site for tips!

To see the Horizons program page, click here!

Florence and the Never Ending Stairs

Name: Kim Le
Major: Art and Design
Hometown: Hochimin, Vietnam
Destination: Florence, Italy
Institution: TU in Italy: Lorenzo de’Medici, Florence campus

It is impossible to find a one story house or building in the historic center of Florence. Most buildings range from old to very old.  Originally, in the interest of defense and population, people in Florence demanded four to five stories buildings with impressive defense systems–thankfully these systems are no longer needed. Together with the old ages came the lack of elevators, and even with the elevators available, in most buildings the elevators are only for residences (I guess we are not counted even though my school’s classrooms are in there. What a pity). So, living in Florence, I have so much fun with stairs that I just want everyone to come and enjoy them (misery loves companies, or so I’ve heard).

Stairs in Florence, Italy

The intimitating stairs in Kim’s apartment building in Florence, Italy.

Yes, you can see it. A long, beautiful staircase that guarantees to kill any enthusiasm anyone can have after dragging their big, 50 lbs suitcases and backpacks up to the third floor. The first day I met Florence, I had a long and interesting conversation about life and the philosophical aspect of masochism, as well as the need of some people (me!)to travel with a 6 lb laptop and other things together with a 52 lb suitcase while dragging said bags up the overly narrow stair. Needless to say, I realized the beauty of elevators and swore an undying love with them forever. To be fair, it is not that horrible when I just need to carry myself up everyday, and is a breeze when I need to go down the stairs. Other examples of long, narrow stairs including three of my school buildings, one actually has a tiny elevator we could use, though if it moved a bit faster people could get to class on time without being exhausted. Another type of stairs, though, is the stairs to go up on churches and historical buildings. A good example is the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, which offers a great view, though the way up might be a bit too long. The Duomo and the Bell Tower, two very famous attractions of Florence, also offer fantastic views at the cost of nearly 400 steps.

Palazzo Vecchio stairs, Florence Italy

Palazzo Vecchio stairs, Florence Italy

Strangely enough, I think I will miss Florence’s stairs when I return home. Since there is no way to escape stairs if one wants to fully experience Florence.  In fact, the stairs are probably part of her charm, I guess looking up at the never ending stairs is now my hobby, as long as I do not have to climb them. Again.