Breana Deaz visiting the waters at Krka, Croatia. (image credit: Breana Diaz)

Florence University of the Arts (FUA), located in Italy, offers students studying abroad there an opportunity to arrive a week before classes start. This early start program gives all students involved a full week to get ahead with adapting to their new surroundings.

Breana Diaz, a fashion merchandising and management major, is currently spending the first semester of her senior year at FUA. She arrived a week early with a group of other students, participating in the program that is an actual class and worth three credits.

When asked to describe what her experience was like, Diaz said, “we started in Rome and spent about two to three days there, then ventured to the countryside of Lazio and Tuscany and ended in Florence. Each day was full of events, basically 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.”

Each day throughout that week is full of guided tours and opportunities to get students adjusted to life in another country. Diaz described this week as “an adjustment period to Italy.”

Although this is a class, it’s clear that the instructors who are a part of this program wish to see students reflecting and learning more from their experience abroad.

“After the day was over, our instructor would send out questions from the day and from the reading we were doing and that was our journal,” Diaz said. “At the end of the course we had to send in our final reflection.”

Throughout her tours and reflections, Diaz learned about the Colosseum, Vatican City, the Trevi Fountain and so much more. Not only did she learn more about the culture and history of Italy, she has also made close friends because of her first week there.

“It helped build community because being with this group of students a week before everyone else made us close,” Diaz said when asked about the benefits of getting a jump start on her study abroad experience. “It created close bonds and you learn so much.”

When asked if she would recommend this program to other students, Diaz said, “100 percent. It is worth all the walking, in my opinion, [because] you just delve right into the culture and if I was given the chance, I would do it all again.”