Accent Community College Scholarship: First Impressions in Firenze

This week, we join Accent Community College Scholarship recipient Christiana Leonardo, who is studying in Florence. Christiana enthusiastically dives into every aspect of her time in Italy, from her classes to her roommates to the sense of community she and her peers have developed over the course of only a few weeks.

Hey, y’all. Benvenuto to my blog!

My name is Christiana Leonardo. I studied abroad in Italy during high school, where I was able to learn a bit of the language. I made a vow then that I would one day study in Florence after seeing what a fun student city it seemed to be. Three years later, my Italian is super rusty, but I am stoked to refine it over the next 89 days!

I have just begun the Spring study abroad program for Art History and Italian Language through Santa Barbara City College and Accent Global. SBCC Study Abroad typically offers one destination per semester, and this Spring was my last at SBCC, so I had been planning on studying abroad wherever that might’ve been. I have always felt that it’s not where you go, it’s what you make of it. I was hoping for a non-English speaking country because I love to learn other languages; I would have been happy to go to Japan or Chile or India. But I was so happy to learn the program would be in Firenze, returning me to the country I had previously called home, and to a city my 17-year-old self would be hyped about.

I arrived a few days before the rest of the students in my program, hoping to get to know the city a bit. To my disappointment, I slept for the majority of those two days due to jet lag but, blessed with navigational intelligence and the compact layout of Florence, I have already come to know the city like the back of my hand. Florence is, by far, my favorite city in Italy: it is the birthplace of the Italian language, home of some of the best art museums on the planet, stunning architecture, and the best tiramisù that I have found (please send your nonnas’ recipes). Florence carries an energy with it that is a bit younger, due to the large influx of students studying abroad.

It’s funny noticing similarities between my home I’ve just left, Isla Vista, the college town of Santa Barbara, and my new home, Florence. Both take about 20 minutes to walk across, there’s an abundance of students, very cool street art, and everyone walks in the street. I was feeling a bit homesick the day I arrived, and it is, once again, a bit challenging being away from my family and friends, but there are so many things to do here that I can’t do at home. I am hoping to do a lot of traveling to surrounding countries and, as corny as it sounds, carpe every limited diem I have in this Italian heaven!

Accent finds us apartments around the city, and mine is a beautiful 23-minute walk from the Accent Study Center in Piazza Santo Spirito. I walk across the Ponte Vecchio to get to class. So far, all of my professors are great. I had my first Italian quiz today in our fun-filled class and think I will be just about fluent when I leave. This morning, for my Art History lecture, we met at the Uffizi gallery, and saw the works of Botticelli, Giotto, Leonardo, and Michelangelo. I am super stoked to see the real art around Florence each week. The feeling of seeing the physical art that you are knowledgeable about is one like no other, and I crave it.

Having almost every class together, the 26 students on the program have already spent a lot of time together, sharing pizza and mutual feelings of jetlag. I did not know anyone in the program very well before arriving, though there are lots of familiar faces from SBCC! My Florentine apartment is shared between six lovely girls and we are nestled right next to a daily outdoor farmers market— high quality and dirt cheap, might I add. There is already some really great community building amongst all the students. Florence feels quite safe, but it’s nice having people that look out for each other. There have already been weekend trips with new friends from the program, and I am really feeling the family dynamic amongst our tightly knit crew. 


I am excited to be updating y’all on my experience here in Florence and am looking forward to my next post, in which I’ll probably be gushing over the architecture and all the gnocchi I will be shoving into my face every day. In the meantime, your Italian word of the month is “boh”, (pronounced like “bow” but with a short, harsh cut off the vowel at the end) meaning “I don’t know.” It is my favorite Italian word and one I wish we had in English! Ciao ciao for now, until next time!

~Christiana Leonardo, Santa Barbara City College

Accent is proud to support the Community College Scholarship as part of our commitment pledge to IIE Generation Study Abroad, a nationwide effort to help more U.S. students gain international experience through study abroad programs.

Studying abroad is an amazing way to expand your horizons and experience growth. Explore your options with Accent to take your first step into a new and exciting journey!