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Frequently Asked Questions

Program and Academics

When is the best time to study in Florence?

Our Program operates in the Fall, Winter and Spring quarters. When you choose to come will depend on many factors related to your major, the courses being offered in a given quarter, our visiting faculty, commitments you might have on campus, etc. While the decision of when to come is entirely up to you, we encourage you to consider a two quarter stay in Florence.

What are the advantages of staying for two quarters as opposed to one?

In addition to the obvious ones such as increased cultural integration and greater fluency in the Italian language, there are certain academic opportunities such as internships, directed readings, classes at the University of Florence and some public service activities that are only available to second quarter students.

How does the internship program work? What type of opportunities are there?

If you are staying in Florence for at least two quarters you can take an internship for academic credit (1-5 units, letter grade optional). Academic internships begin as part time in the first quarter (a familiarization period, if you will) with an increased time commitment during the second quarter. Stanford in Florence students have interned in just about every field imaginable for organizations and companies such as: General Electric, Roberto Cavalli, Florence’s Pediatric Hospital and the Ferragamo Museum. For more information about our Internship Program please email fosca@stanford.firenze.it.

Is it possible to get involved in a public service activity?

It is and we encourage you to do so. We have excellent working relationships with a number of different organizations mostly dealing with immigrants, children, healthcare and the environment.

What is the usual workload for students?  How many units do students normally take?

Students usually take between 12 and 16 units for a total of 3 or 4
courses.  

Is class attendance mandatory at the Florence Program?

Yes, it is and missing one or more classes will affect your grade for the
course.

Are the courses at the Program taught in English?

We have a good mix of courses taught in English and in Italian. Remember that in order to fulfill your language requirement while in Florence you will have to take an Italian language class, a content course in Italian, a University of Florence class, an academic internship or a directed reading in Italian.

Can I take a class at the University of Florence or at the Accademia delle Belle Arti? Will my credit transfer to Stanford?

Yes, absolutely and you will have to make plans well in advance. Please see the Academic Program section for all relevant information and instructions. The credit you will earn at the local universities will automatically count as general Stanford credit for graduation. If you want this credit to apply towards your major, you will have to petition your department.  The Florence Program's staff will be happy to assist you with your petition. 

I have an important family event that I need to attend and it falls in the week of the finals. Can I leave the Program early and take my finals before the other students?

Unless you are faced with an emergency in which case all necessary accommodations will be made, unfortunately you will not be able to take your finals before the rest of the students.

Can I shop for classes in Florence as I do on campus?  Or can I audit classes?        

Yes, absolutely, you are in Florence but you are still at Stanford and all that applies on campus applies in Florence as well.  

How do I enroll in my classes when I am in Florence?        

You enroll on Axess as you do on campus.

I would like to extend my time in Florence during the summer or come back in the summer to continue my internship/conduct a research project.  Are there funds available?

Yes, there are.  Please speak with the Internship Coordinator and with the Director when you are in Florence.

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General

What is the voltage in Italy? Will my laptop/hair dryer/straightener, etc. work over there?

Electricity in Italy is 220 volts, 50 cycles alternating current (AC). For comparison, in the United States it is 110 volts, 60 cycle AC current. If you plan on using your own 110-volt appliances, you will need a voltage converter, unless your appliance is designed to also work with 220 volts electricity (dual voltage). For example, most laptops and some electric shavers are designed to work both at 110 and 220 volts. Plugging in an appliance that is not designed to run on 220 volts electricity (such as a hair dryer or straightener) without using voltage converter will most likely kill it. If you think you will need a voltage converter, it is a good idea to purchase it before you leave home. However, consider that it is possible to purchase a basic hair dryer or straightener in Italy for less than the cost of a voltage converter in the US.

What sort of clothing should I bring with me?

For fall quarter, you should bring layers since the seasons will change. At the beginning of the quarter it can be quite hot, but by November you will need a winter coat, scarf, gloves and rain boots.

For winter quarter, you should bring only winter clothing. It can be cold and windy, although the temperature will hardly ever drop below 25° F. Don’t expect to see snow in Florence, but do remember to bring an umbrella.

For spring quarter, you should bring layers since the seasons will change. The end of March is almost spring weather, but it can still get windy or cold at night, so you will need a jacket. April and May are very pleasant. June can get very hot, with temperatures rising into the 90’s.

Can I send my luggage to the Program's address?

Yes, certainly provided, however, you do not send any valuables (no portable computers, please!) and that you get proper information from your local post office on customs fees. Indeed, customs fees can also be applied to used clothes or other items of your own property. While it is possible to send "things" over it is usually not recommended to avoid incurring high fees.  This applies also to items that your friends or family will be sending to you while you are in Florence.  If you or someone else plans to send packages over, it is usually recommended that you indicate a very low dollar value for the items that are being sent.  If you send used clothes, please indicate "vestiti usati." 

Where can I receive my snail mail while in Florence?

The easiest thing is to give your friends and family the Program's address where you can receive all your mail (including packages).  The address is: 

Stanford University
Palazzo Capponi alle Rovinate
Via de' Bardi, 36
50125 Florence, Italy

Are there group flights to Florence?        

No, there are not but if you want to find out who is flying out of which airport you can use the Florence email list-serve for your quarter and ask.  This way, you may arrange to fly together with another student. Here is the email address for winter 08-09, for example:  florence1094@lists.stanford.edu

Do you know how many suitcases we can bring?

We have no rules but the airlines have become VERY strict so stick to their rules.

What is the weather like in Florence?

The best local weather website is: http://www.lamma.rete.toscana.it/, where the Florentines go to check on the weather forecast.  It requires a bit of navigation. First click on "Metereologia e previsioni" then on the next page click on the menu "Previsioni" and then scroll to "Toscana."

What do I do when I get to the Florence airport or to the train station?

If you expect to arrive at the Stanford Center within our business hours (9AM-7PM), please take a taxi to the Program center.  If you arrive before or after office hours we expect you to let us know promptly (even if you are en route and you miss a connection) so that special arrangements will be made.  Most likely, we will give you the address of your Italian home-stay so that you can go there directly. 

How does tipping work in Italy?

Usually, one does not tip in Italy unless there is a very special circumstance. For example, if your taxi fare comes to  17.50 Euros and if the taxi driver has helped you with your heavy suitcases, it is advisable to round up the figure to 18 Euros. In restaurants, cafés, etc. there is a line on your check which reads "servizio," that means that you are already tipping your waiter as you pay your check. 

Can I work in Italy?

Unless you hold a EU passport or an Italian passport, you can not legally work in Italy much in the same way as a European on a student visa can not legally work in the US.  The Florence Program, however, has some jobs available for its students. If you would like to work for the Program, please attend the "Work for the Program" meeting that will take place within the first 10 days of each quarter.  Only students on Financial Aid can work for the Center. 

I am thinking about communication once there, and I am not so sure of the best method. What can I do once in Italy? For instance, should I bring my own cell phone and contact my company about the trip? Should I purchase a SM card or cellular phone upon arrival? What about renting a phone?

You have a few options once you're here: The most expensive thing to do would be to use your U.S. number.  You will pay a fortune in roaming fees so we don’t recommend that at all.

If you bring your cell phone you can remove your U.S. SIM card (that's the little card inserted near the battery, the "brain" of your cell phone.  It contains your U.S. number and all of your phone's information),  buy an Italian SIM card, and use a "pay as you go" system (this will work with many but not all phones).  This involves simply "recharging" your phone with money as you use it/need it.  You do not need to set up any sort of contract.  You can also buy an Italian SIM card and an Italian cellular phone and use the same pay as you go system. Many students are using Skype so that should also keep your cell. phone costs down.  You will not pay to receive phone calls while in Italy.  You will pay roaming fees, however, if you leave Italy and go to another country in Europe, for example.

Rentals also can be economically convenient and there is a fairly competitive market here in Florence so you might find a very reasonable rental especially if other students in the group rent out phones.   In some quarters students rent, in others they buy.  It's a bit hard to predict but all students will likely want to do the same thing and usually end up going to do it together.

How will I get around the city? Is everything pretty close by so that you can walk everywhere?

Walking or by bus most of the time, taxis only in certain situations (we will discuss at length during orientation). Florence is tiny and very easy to navigate.

I remember in the orientation meeting we were told we’d be given a certain amount of Euros a day for lunch but how does it work? Do we get the allowance once we're there, or as a refund check from the University?

You will get meal allowances for your weekday lunches and Saturday night dinners: one reimbursement at the beginning and another later on in the quarter.  It will be in cash.  We'll explain again in detail once you're here.

Should I buy shampoo and body wash, Advil, etc. in the states and bring it with me?

This is up to you and since things like this cost a lot more here in Italy than in the U.S. it might make sense to do so, especially if you’re particularly fond of specific brands. Make sure you wrap all liquids well since they have to go in your suitcases and could leak. OTC drugs go by different names here so you won't find Advil specifically although you will find ibuprofen under a different brand name. 

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Homestays

When do I learn to which home-stay I was assigned? 

You will learn about your home-stay upon arrival in Florence. This is not to be secretive about it, but is simply the procedure we have in place and helps us to avoid possible problems or misunderstandings.  Say, for example, we give you all the information about the family which will be hosting you a month prior to your arrival and then something happens within the family and they are no longer able to host a student for that particular quarter.  In the meantime, you will have set your mind on a given family and will find a totally new and different, albeit comparable one, when you get here. You can be assured, however, that we read your housing form very, very carefully and do our best to match you with the "right" family for you.  We also try (and very often succeed) in accommodating you with whichever student you requested as a house-mate. 

What if after the first week in a given family, I feel that it is not the right match or I see that our relationship is having some problems?

In a case like this, it is absolutely crucial that you let the Florence staff know as soon as possible.  After a meeting with the Program’s staff, a solution will be found. 

Can I cook my own dinner at my home-stay?

As you will be having dinner with your entire Italian family, dinner will be cooked by a family member. You can, however, ask to help with dinner and you will learn all the secrets of Italian cuisine. If you want to cook a special dinner, you can discuss this with your Italian family and they will most likely enjoy cooking it with you. 

What type of food will I be eating in Florence? What sort of traditional Tuscan specialties can I expect to eat at my homestay?

Florence’s cuisine is primarily focused on pasta dishes, vegetable and bean soups, and meat (typically prepared roasted or grilled). Tuscan bread is made without salt, so it is quite different than what you may be used to. Salted bread is also readily available, just ask for schiacciata or pane salato.

Some of the specialties include: pasta e fagioli (a type of bean and noodle soup), ribollita (very thick vegetable soup), pappa al pomodoro (tomato and bread soup), tagliatelle al ragù (fresh pasta with meat sauce), ravioli di spinaci e ricotta (fresh pasta filled with spinach and ricotta cheese) and bistecca alla fiorentina (a thick steak served very rare). However, do not be surprised if you discover some more exotic dishes for the American palate such as: insalata di polpo (octopus salad), trippa (stomach), lampredotto (intestines), crostini al fegato (toasted bread with liver paté), or crostini al lardo (toasted bread with cured lard).

Should I bring a present for my Italian family?

This is a very personal decision, there is certainly no need to do it but you should feel free to do so if you wish.  In the course of the quarter, as your relationship grows, if you like, you can show them some pictures of the campus, or of your friends and family as a way to share a bit of your world with them.  This, however, is entirely up to you and not expected or mandatory at all.

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