Academic Advice Abroad: What to Take?

“You’re taking a walking class?” a friend asked me one day.

Wanderlust: The Physical and Emotional Art of Walking has been one of the most interesting courses I have taken while in Italy. Professor Lapo became my personal guide to discovering Florence on foot (Please, please, take this course). The cooking and cultural classes in Europe are a given must, but don’t skip over these other unique eye-openers.

My advice: Don’t take something that your home school offers.

You’re in another country… branch out! This doesn’t go to say that Social Psychology will be taught the exact same way as it would be in Boston, Massachusetts, but why take that when you could take Culture Shock: Cross-Cultural Psychology while experiencing it yourself?

I’m sure that many other institutions offer very similar courses to what was offered at Florence University of the Arts, so this should go for anyone studying abroad.

Take at least one food course.

I took Food of Italy: Regional Cultures, which consisted of daily food tastings accompanied by a lecture. My slight pickiness that I brought to Italy quickly subsided as I forced myself to try whatever was in front of me (besides some fish, which I can’t stomach).

The weirdest food I’ve tried and unapologetically loved? Chicken liver. Seriously. This wasn’t a food that we tried in class, but it was popular at Aperitivo or as any appetizer at a restaurant. Don’t knock it until you try it. (Me just a few months ago would not believe I’d say any of that!!)

Food classes also get really specific in Europe. You can take a chocolate course, bread making, wine culture and wine tasting, pasta making or pastry prep courses. One of the chocolate courses at FUA is titled Everything Chocolate: From Therapy to Pleasure. I even heard the school spa has a chocolate massage… that’s one I should have tried (Someone let me know how it goes).

Even if you’re not a cook, take one of these classes. You’ll pick up a new skill and maybe expand your palette. Cultural courses are so important to make you feel at home in your new country and new school. Not to mention the classes are so much fun!

General Education Requirements

If you’re stuck to checking off general education requirements from your home country (maybe you need a math or science credit that you skipped or failed last year… we all have one of those dreaded classes, right?), this is okay!

Need a history credit? How about History of the Italian Mafia? I took Health and Fitness in the Mediterranean as my science general education requirement (No more chemistry or physics for me:)) and it was one of my favorite courses.

This class included cooking labs, museum visits, workouts and guided walks around the city. I learned about ways to stay healthy while in Italy, which was so helpful. Italy really isn’t the pasta, pizza and all-things-carbs that Americans stereotypically believe it to be. Now that’s another conversation (A Guide to Healthy Living in Florence, Italy blog post coming soon!!)

Art & Fashion

If you have room to do so, take something art-related. This doesn’t have to be a drawing or painting class. Italy is huge on fashion, and the FLY! school at FUA (called Fashion Loves You) is incredible. I didn’t get to take any of their courses, but all my fashion friends absolutely loved them.

FUA students design and produce clothing which is sold at the school’s vintage store. These designs are shown off at the school’s annual fashion show. I would have loved to be a part of this one 🙂

Other Unique Courses

There are other courses offered abroad that may be similar to your home institution’s except they may have an international focus, such as International Marketing. These can provide another perspective and broaden academic horizons.

FUA has a Street Photography course, which focuses on more than just the functions of a camera but also the social culture that goes hand in hand with shooting. Fashion photography is a popular course as well.

No matter your major or minor, try your best to branch out while studying abroad. Chances are your new school offers classes that would never be heard of in the states. These are some eye opening experiences that you won’t learn anywhere else.

Yours Truly,

Cat Taylor

Take a look at this classroom, the “Pink Room!”

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