A Viking’s Tale of the American College Experience in Florence
My name is Andrea. I am a 21 year old college student from Iceland currently studying and living in Florence, Italy. Iceland is a very small country and I can even bet that most people can’t point it out on a map. So, in effect, the culture is really small. You could say that Iceland is like a small town in America. To give you an example: if something is stolen from you or you lose it, post it on Facebook and the whole country will share it and see it and you’ll probably get your stuff back. But being from such a small country, it also makes us ignorant to the outside world sometimes. It’s important for us to travel and get to know the diversity of the world.
Thankfully, Iceland is a fairly diverse country. We got a lot of influence from the British army when they had a base in Reykjavík, as well as the US army when they later had a base there for several years. I remember when the US army was here we got to know a lot about America. American movies, food, drinks, music, traditions etc., and our culture is still very influenced by the American culture.
When I was younger I really wanted to move to America, get the high school experience, go to prom, live in a college dorm room, order pizza and play beer pong. That unfortunately never happened but I still didn’t miss out on the college experience completely. Enrolling into FUA, I knew I was going to an American oriented school. So I can say that studying abroad gave me two different experiences: the local Fiorentine experience and the American study abroad college experience.
This article will give you an inside to what the Hollywood movie college life is for a foreign student studying in Europe, places to go and stuff to do if you’re looking for the American experience!
This is me experiencing Halloween for the first time, I’m a dragon on a budget 🙂
Let’s start this off by listing the places that cater to a college student’s basic needs: coffee and alcohol. Being in Italy, you’re in the coffee capital of the world. The first thing you will notice is that coffee in Italy is not coffee in America, here that’s an Americano (watered down espresso). When you ask the barista for a coffee in Italy, you will get an espresso. Also the Italians choose their coffee drink depending on the time of day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t drink Americano throughout the day if you want to. An Italian recently opened a chain coffee shop in Italy, Arnold Coffee.
It’s the same concept as Starbucks. They have small, medium and large sizes of coffee with flavors, coffee milk, milkshakes, juices, smoothies and a selections of bagels and sweets. If you’re really missing a taste of home, they also sell Nerds and Twizzlers.
Since it opened, I have spent most of my studying time here. You can find Arnold either at the left side of the Duomo or on the Santa Maria Novella square.
Alcohol? Plenty! Uncle Jimmy’s is the place to go. Located near Piazza Repubblica on Via dei Pescioni. From the messy unisex bathroom, flip cup, beer pong and writing all over the wall to cheap cocktails and dirty underwear from previous nights hanging in the ceiling, Uncle Jimmy’s will give you that feeling of finally home. To be honest, my mouth dropped when I first walked in here. I had never seen anything like it, the bars back home are nothing like this one! But I guarantee you will have a fun night. They have a flip cup tournament every Monday and be sure to get the Uncle Jimmy’s bracelet which gives you a free shot with every cocktail! Jimmy’s won’t disappoint you.
Looking for a bar to watch your favorite Football team? Fear not, Florence got plenty of those. The Lion’s Fountain is worth checking out. It’s in the same setting as Jimmy’s, bigger inside and out. On their menu you’ll find wings, sliders, nachos, tacos, fries, burgers and everything else you need for the perfect Football night. Red Garteris also a great sports bar. The service there is great, they have a large food menu, good quality drinks and many screens where they display all kinds of sports throughout the day. They have the best mozzarella sticks I have ever had! (they also deliver ;))
Make up: Thank heavens that Italy has Sephora. In Florence they have two stores in the city center, one by the Duomo and one inside the Santa Maria Novella train station. Kiko Milano is a good quality drug store brand based in Italy, they have a couple of stores around Florence. Limoni also has high-end and drugstore brands.
Clothes: H&M of course is always my first choice, they have one store in the city center and another bigger store right outside the city center (20 minute drive) where they also have the kids and lingerie department. Brandy Melville has a store right beside H&M in the center. And recently I found Subdued here as well which is in the same style as Brandy. But I will forever be addicted to online shopping.
Grocery shopping: Conad is everywhere. But it’s not the cheapest and not the best grocery store. But you’ll find everything you need there and you’ll see that most people in the center shop here. Carrefour Express is a better choice, in my opinion, than Conad. It’s a little bit bigger, just a tad cheaper and their Carrefour products are better quality. This is my go-to store. But if you want your money’s worth and you want to have a huge selection of groceries, go to Esselunga. There are several stores in Florence but unfortunately there’s only one located near the city center but it’s a long walk. It’s good to make a trip there once a week or once every two weeks and buy some things in bulk and then you can go to Conad or Carrefour daily for little things. My favorite, Vivi Market, is a small Asian store on via del Giglio. They have a lot of Asian cuisine and some essential American products like brownie mix, frosting, cornstarch, peanut butter, coconut oil and so much more!
Delivery services: The. Best. Thing. Ever. And Italy doesn’t just have one, they have three (that I know of)! JustEat only accepts cash upon delivery but Deliveroo and Foodora only accept. You’ll see that they all have a large list of restaurants that they deliver from, some restaurants might even appear on all of those pages. I suggest that you read the reviews about the restaurants before you order unless you’ve already eaten there.
Hope this article makes life a little bit easier for you study abroad students, it took me a while to find all of those things out by myself! My advice to you though is to not get too lost in your American ways, embrace the country you’re living in, soak up the culture, get to know how Italians live. I consider myself very lucky to have both of these experiences, I feel like I’m drowning in new cultures and I love it!