European Union Policy Studies

New Place, New Adventures in Florence



(Photo: Jacqueline Severance)

Living in Florence is like living in a world of culture filled with pasta and cappuccinos. We spend our days in class studying political science and our nights exploring the city. Instead of crossing interstate 81 in Harrisonburg we cross the beautiful Arno River while looking at Ponte Vecchio. This view is far prettier than the highway’s eighteen wheeler trucks. While exploring the city we practice the Italian that we have learned in class, it is the only way to practice. Florence has a long history of art, fashion, and food, the opportunity to study political science in this city is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We can see how the European Union policies shape and influence a country and how it affects the daily lives of citizens. We would not get this firsthand experience with only studying it in books. Despite the long hours and thousands of pages of readings every class is exciting, we debate, compare and contrast about different current European issues. After these classes we try and decide on whether to go to Gusta Pizza or Mangiatoia for lunch before heading home to apartments all over the central part of the city.

Like students in recent EUPS cohorts, we live in small groups in apartments sprinkled throughout the historical city center. One apartment is just down the street from the Duomo, while the others are closer to Ponte Vecchio. Not only are they relatively close to Palazzo Capponi, where we take classes, they are also near each other. This makes it easy for us to test our cooking skills at family dinners or to hang out after a long day of studying. Cooking together can be an experiment and a challenge. We are unafraid to try our hand at creating Italian dishes, but we’re frequently stumped when trying to buy the correct ingredients. Regardless, it is an adventure, and we do enjoy going out and exploring local restaurants. We get to make the apartments our own; there are only two to four of us per apartment, and we don’t have to share a kitchen with thirty other people. It also gives us a place to go when we have been studying too long in the Palazzo and need a change of scenery. The walk back home over the river is the best way to unwind after a long day of reading and presenting.

Each day is different and brings us new experiences; it could be a new food or a new place that we haven’t seen before. We start the day heading to Italian classes. Then, we often go to a café (better than Starbucks!) to practice Italian and get a cappuccino before the afternoon classes. We spend class time talking about different aspects of the EU or listening to presentations done by speakers or other students. These presentations lead to discussions ranging from theories of the EU to current issues facing Europe and the world.

The EUPS current class is a small, close-knit group; there are only twelve of us, and it makes for great friends. Each semester is a little different in terms of classes; this semester, we are all taking the same classes and their main focus is to give us a thorough background of the European Union and all of its aspects. These classes range from EU policies to issues with transatlantic trade, all very fascinating and important concepts. They are great preparation for our trips to Brussels and Strasbourg. There, we will speak with members of the European Parliament, Commission and other EU organizations. Adapting to Florence is always an adventure, trying to navigate the appliances in the apartments to speaking Italian with locals.

All of these different experiences have made us grow as students and as people. We have reached out to international students who we will be working with us on our European Union simulation in the spring, and we’ve been meeting other students in cafés all around Florence. We have been able to explore the city by going to museums, eating gelato in the piazzas, and participating in local events like the Corri La Vita (a local 5k for charity). All of these experiences have allowed us to fully integrate ourselves in Florence and in Europe, making us true students of the European Union. 

Written by By Meghan Pearson

Published: Sunday, November 1, 2015

Last Updated: Friday, January 19, 2018

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