Brynn Bottalico is a member of Marist's Class of 2020 who recently completed her first year as part of the "Freshman Florence Experience" at Marist's Branch Campus in Florence, Italy. She is a Communication major specializing in Public Relations with a minor in Business Administration.
How did you feel when you first found out about the Freshman Florence Experience (FFE)?
When I first found out about the FFE, I was sold. I knew this program was a perfect fit for me. Throughout my senior year of high school, I knew I wanted something different when it came to college and doing my first year abroad in Florence, Italy was exactly what I needed after graduating. I was so nervous and so excited for my year abroad, I couldn’t wait!
?What were some of your concerns about spending your first year of college at the Florence branch campus??
Naturally, I had several worries regarding fitting in, making friends and balancing everything on my own but everything fell into place right when I got to Florence because everyone is in the same boat. I was most nervous about having similar support from faculty members that students in Poughkeepsie would have but the relationships I built with my professors, advisors, resident directors and RA’s were so strong, I always felt like I had people to go to. Whether it was a medical concern, travel concern, apartment issues or where to get lunch when my parents came to visit, all of the Marist staff was more than helpful and truly was always there for me.
How did you decide that the FFE was the right choice for you??
I knew the FFE was the right choice for me because the idea of going abroad my first year scared and fascinated me. A program like this is so different and uncommon, I was so intrigued and curious about it. When I felt scared, nervous and excited all at once, I knew I needed to participate in the FFE and experience my first year of college abroad.
What was your favorite class in Florence? Why?
I really loved all of my classes in Florence because the professors were amazing and pretty much all of the classes revolve around Florence. My absolute favorite class was definitely my cooking class, Topics in Nutrition. I looked forward to this class every week because it didn’t feel like a class! Taking notes on the food industry and Italian food culture didn’t feel like class, it was so fun. Not to mention that we got to cook and eat a delicious meal each class!
??What was your most challenging class in Florence? Why?
I thought all of my classes in Florence were very manageable. My most difficult class was definitely my Introduction to Communications class I had to take for my major. This class was very interesting and challenging, but like no other class I had ever taken. It was very theoretical, psychological, anthropological and sociological which made it tricky. It was hard to tell if you were right or wrong because, in communication theory, there really isn’t specific or correct right and wrongs. While it was challenging, it was always interesting and intriguing because of how new and different the class was for me.
?What was your typical day like in Florence?
A typical day in Florence involved class, a café to do some homework and grocery shopping. I quickly learned the ins and outs of grocery shopping and cooking on my own and I realized it was the most cost effective and practical to pick up a few things each day for dinner that night. After dinner with friends, we would hang out, try to do some homework and then get gelato at My Sugar!
??What was your typical weekend like in Florence?
A typical weekend in Florence was spent with friends at our favorite piazzas, cafes or restaurants enjoying the Italian culture. When my friends and I weren’t traveling, we really loved our long, relaxing weekends at home. Sleeping in, doing homework and grabbing a bite to eat or hopping on a train to a neighboring town were regular occurrences on a weekend in Florence.
?How did you stay connected with home??
Staying connected with family and friends back home was so easy with Facetime, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and iMessage. I didn’t have a phone number while I was in Florence and never had any issues keeping in touch with loved ones back home because Wi-Fi is offered everywhere. If I needed to make a phone call, I just borrowed a friend’s phone but Facetime or Facetime Audio always worked best for me!
?How did the faculty and staff support you during your time in Florence?? ?
All of the Marist Italy staff was always so helpful and supportive. From helping me with the permit of stay process to translating my test results when I was sick with strep throat over winter break, the Marist Italy staff was always there for me. The faculty and staff really are there for you and want to help you with anything they can. Building relationships and getting to know your professors and Marist staff will only help you and better your experience.
What was your most memorable moment in Florence???
My most memorable moment in Florence was when I saw Piazzle Michelangelo for the first time. I remember we asked our bus driver to drop us off there after our orientation day trip so we could stop and see the Gelato Festival that was going on at Piazzle Michelangelo. I remember being so excited about all the gelato we could try and then looking up, past the stands and gelato vendors and seeing the Duomo and all of Florence, my home for the next 9 months.
How was your transition back to the Marist New York campus???
The Marist Italy and Poughkeepsie staff were always there to answer any questions I had regarding housing selection and campus questions! Marist really tries to give the FFE’s their first or second housing choice so their transition back to Poughkeepsie can be as smooth as possible.
?How do you feel you benefited from this program?
The FFE program made me feel so much more confident. After living, traveling and going to college abroad and on my own, I feel extremely comfortable and confident in myself and my abilities and my flaws. I still have to work on my procrastination habits but this program really taught me how to manage my time and prioritize what is important.
?What advice would you give to a prospective student considering the FFE??
DO IT! You will not regret participating in the FFE. Doing my first year abroad in Florence, Italy was the best decision I’ve ever made. Immersing yourself in a brand new country, culture, and lifestyle will only help you grow and build a bigger perspective on the world.
What is your favorite place in Florence? Why?
I really loved every single place in Florence but if I had to pick one, it would be the Mercato Centrale. As a food lover, this place was my heaven. Seeing locals, tourists and students all roam around trying to decide what stand to order from made me so excited. Aside from the endless amounts of delicious food offered at the market, some of my favorite memories with friends were made there. We would all walk around the market, split up and get the food we were in the mood for and then meet back up at a table and enjoy our meals together.
?What was your least favorite place in Florence? Why?
While I really didn’t have a least favorite place, the only place that came to mind for my least favorite spot was the Florence Airport. Every time I went to the Florence airport to leave for a weekend trip or winter break or when it was finally time to leave in May, I was always so sad to leave Florence. All of the many trips and adventures that started in the Florence Airport were absolutely incredible but never better than my favorite city and home, Florence.
Profile Tags:Profile Type: Class of 2020
Academic School: Communication and the Arts
Campus: New York