Luis Higuera is a member of Marist's Class of 2020 who recently completed his first year as part of the "Freshman Florence Experience" at Marist's Branch Campus in Florence, Italy. He is pursuing a double major in Political Science and Philosophy.
How did you feel when you first found out about the Freshman Florence Experience (FFE)?
I was very excited for the chance to experience Europe. I was familiar with the program through my cousin who did it just four years prior. She thought it was one of the best experiences of her life and I was dying to make this adventure my own.
What were some of your concerns about spending your first year of college at the Florence branch campus?
I was concerned about leaving everyone and everything I knew and loved back home for so long. I knew I was ready to be independent, but I still had reservations. Having never been to Europe and not being able to speak Italian also gave me some reservations about spending my first year abroad. This program is also very unique and obviously is not a traditional freshman experience in America which worried me a bit at first.
How did you decide that the FFE was the right choice for you?
I knew it was right for me because I was an experienced traveler and have a passion for experiencing new cultures. I also knew that this experience would set me apart from my peers and offer me something most traditional college campuses cannot.
What was your favorite class in Florence? Why?
My favorite class in Florence was my Introduction to Western Philosophy course. I had never taken a philosophy course. It helped me open up my mind and see the world a bit differently and ultimately helped me decide on my second major. We studied some of the greatest minds of Western civilizations and many came from the very city we were studying in during the Renaissance era.
What was your most challenging class in Florence? Why?
My most challenging class in Florence was my International Politics course. Our professor expected a lot from her students. As a freshman, I sometimes felt as though I did not have all of the skills she expected us to have. Many of the students in the course were juniors who had already decided on their major and possessed the know-how to succeed in a challenging environment. Ultimately, I was able to hold my own and excel in a very interesting and thought-provoking course.
What was your typical day like in Florence?
My typical day in Florence involved two classes a day with lunch at the small, but yummy LdM cafeteria. I would eat breakfast and dinner at home with food my roommate and I bought from the grocery store down the street. I also kept myself busy by joining soccer club, which met once a week, volunteering at a local kindergarten, or going to play basketball across the river at a park when the weather was nice. Because I was able to manage my time wisely I was not bogged down with homework every night.
What was your typical weekend like in Florence?
My typical weekend in Florence would be sleeping in, doing homework, and having fun with friends. I would try to go to a new museum, or spot in Florence that I have not been to. The cafe scene is very fun and lively on the weekends and there are always people to hang out with if others are traveling.
How did you stay connected with home?
I stayed connected with home through WhatsApp, Facebook, and FaceTime. Although there is a six hour time difference between the East coast and Florence, it was not difficult to find times to talk and text with friends and family.
How did the faculty and staff support you during your time in Florence?
Marist provided two RAs and two RDs that lived in the building with us and a nightly security guard, which gave us easy access to people that could help us at any hour of the day with a variety of issues. The Marist Italy offices are only a ten-minute walk away from the apartments and was always fully staffed with people willing to support you with academic and social issues.
What was your most memorable moment in Florence?
My most memorable moment in Florence was not just one, but many walks up to Piazzale Michelangelo and taking in the incredible view of the city.
How do you feel you benefited from this program?
I feel as though I have benefited from this program by becoming a more independent and open-minded student. I have become more cultured and more motivated to make a difference in the world and feel as though this program has helped me become a greater version of myself.
What advice would you give to a prospective student considering the FFE?
Go for it! Experiences and traveling are what sticks with you for the rest of your life. Doing this program will open you up to a new side of life that you never knew existed at such a young age.
What is your favorite place in Florence? Why?
My favorite place in Florence is in front of the Duomo, The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. I walked by it almost every day in Florence and it never ceased to amaze me. Especially after learning about its history and relevance to the times in which it was built, it made me appreciate its glory.
What was your least favorite place in Florence? Why?
My least favorite places in Florence were the clubs. They were loud, dirty, and full of American students. Although I ventured into a few and had some fun, it usually would not last. Many of my friends did enjoy the energy and music, but it got old very quick for me personally
Profile Tags:Profile Type: Class of 2020
Major: Political Science
Academic School: Liberal Arts
Campus: New York