Titan Travels Part 2: Immersion in Florentine Culture

Mihaylo College lives out its mission to produce globally aware business leaders and provide international immersive experiences to students. The Center for International Business assists in creating and supporting international study initiatives for business students through the Business Europe Study Tours (BEST) Program, the Heidelberg Program, and the Business Honors Study Abroad Program. This post is the second in a series of six articles written by Mihaylo accounting student, Elizabeth Garcia ’14, narrating her unique study abroad experiences in Florence, Italy. Elizabeth is currently enrolled in a semester long program at the Lorenzo de’Medici International Institute in Italy, through CSUF’s Global Student Experience.  

Ciao ragazzi! I’m now a little over halfway through my stay in Florence, and I must say, the concept of time truly amazes me. How have I been spending mine? Leisurely reading countless books on my growing list, befriending some phenomenal individuals from all over the world and most importantly, immersing myself in the unique culture Italy so proudly holds on to.

Florence has a unique atmosphere and historical richness that keeps me mesmerized and curious. The city’s historical significance is most notably attached to the Renaissance; however, Florence was also once home to Europe’s strongest banks and still thrives off of the profitable textile and fashion industries. This beautiful city is undoubtedly founded on artistic innovation and creativity, which brings a great abstract perspective to my business studies.

Italian lifestyle is very relationship driven: calm, cool, and somewhat collected. As an aspiring entrepreneur with a capitalistic mindset, this was VERY new to me. I was shocked to find out that most stores in high traffic areas close at 7 p.m. when there are STILL hundreds of potential customers willing to spend more money. Italians believe in a little something called “going home in time for dinner is more rewarding than earning a few extra bucks.” I had a lot of assimilating to do, so I decided to temporarily replace my “go, go, go” non-stop mentality with a new “slow down and open your eyes” frame of mind. With so many peaceful areas of the city to experience – my favorites being Piazzale Michelangelo and Giardino delle Rose – switching lifestyle pace was less conscious and more of a natural transition. Enjoying beautiful scenery while sunbathing, studying for midterms or having a nice picnic overlooking the Florentine clay tile roofs has been an enriching experience. I have learned to appreciate the simplicity in Italian lifestyle thanks to a much broader global perspective and openness to change.

Florence, Italy gardens

My favorite aspect of Italian culture has to be the amount of walking I do. I walk to my classes all over the city, passing through cafes at every corner and luxury fashion brands through the center. I walk to the grocery store daily, to group meetings, to choir, you name it. I think I forgot what it’s like to be behind the wheel. (Warning: Stay off the road for a few weeks after I’m back folks!) This independent method of transportation has really helped me naturally become one with the city and its vibrant atmosphere.

Eli Garcia enjoys walking through Florence’s beautiful historical gardens.

I wouldn’t be experiencing Italian lifestyle if I didn’t indulge in the food culture. Heaven is now synonymous with cappuccino, caprese salads, panino and pizza. Although this sounds generic, you truly haven’t experienced Italian cuisine until you’ve sat down at a Trattoria to enjoy fresh soft bread and rich thick pasta that settles so perfectly on your taste buds; you’ll wonder how Olive Garden has survived for so long. As for that delicious Italian wine, I don’t usually go wine tasting, but when I do, I’m in the beautiful hills of Tuscany enjoying fresh cheese and meat slices to complement the smooth sips of Chianti wine.

wine and cheese

Adapting to and living through a completely different culture has truly been an eye-opening and self-reflective transition everyone should experience. Being flexible enough to observe and react to my current surroundings by taking calculated risks in school, work, and life in general is a skill I have developed through this global experience. Italian culture is wonderfully traditional, and although it has not by any means been all rainbows and butterflies, I have adopted my favorite aspects and hope to continue them back in the states. On that note, I must say, I miss the Fullerton sunshine, lunch breaks at The Habit and casual small talk with my business peers in the Mihaylo hallways. For now, I’m enjoying rising temperatures, reading in the rose garden, lunch breaks at Panbrianco (best panino in Florence) and casual small talk with my new European friends and East Coast roommates. Thirty-six more days before graduation, 35 more days before my flight back, and 34 more days of learning and growth in beautiful Florence!

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