Back to SummaryAna Maria Sanchez - Student Profile
MINOR: Italian and French
ACADEMIC INTERESTS: International Development
Before spending my 6 wonderful months in Florence, my biggest dream and goal - for as long as I can remember - was to have the opportunity to experience Italy and its culture firsthand. Year after year I dreamt of going to the 1-month long trip prepared by the Italian school I attended in Colombia for 10th grade. Unfortunately, I just missed the trip, as my family and I decided to move to America two years before it was going to finally be my turn to go with my school
friends to what older generations called, “the trip of a lifetime.” At that moment, I thought I would never be able to have such an experience, but it was this thought itself that pushed me ahead to find my way to have my own “trip of a lifetime.” It was thanks to the Stanford abroad program that my dreams and goals were more than fulfilled, they were completely and unexpectedly surpassed, and that I did get my life-changing trip, and the best 6 months of my life.
I went to Italy to find my second home and be immersed in the culture that had shaped me earlier in my life but only partly knew. Academically, I chose to go to Florence because it offered me a great variety of courses that interested me in both my major and in areas I always wanted to explore, such as Art History, and what better place to do it that in the birthplace of art! What I enjoyed most about being in Italy was that it offered an exceptional and unique perspective to see Europe and the rest of the world.
In no time at all I fell in love with Florence, and everything Italian. I quickly found myself at home, especially thanks to my language partner Iacopo, who besides always being available to help me practice my Italian, introduced me to an amazing network of Italian friends that allowed me to get to know what locals really did and think. There are no words to describe how lucky I felt to be part of a big circle of friends in a country where I had arrived no less than a month before. Iacopo told me from the beginning that he wanted to show me the real Florence and that he wanted to give me the guidance to be able to discover the city and its culture on my own. Thanks to Iacopo I was able to do things I never
even imagined I could do on my abroad experience: go to the places frequented by the locals with my Florentine friends, go to a high school reunion and enjoy the Italians cheering for their old school, go to a graduation party in the middle of the countryside, and enjoy a 5 hour dinner with Iacopo’s soccer team. Just thinking of another wonderful opportunity of getting to actually experience Italian culture with my friends I would miss by traveling somewhere else on the weekend was tough enough to drive me to stay in Florence on the weekends. Thanks to Iacopo, and all of the friends he introduced me to, I was able to have a true understanding and real first hand experience of the Italian culture and warmth.
However, I cannot leave my host family behind on being a key part of why my stay in Italy was so incredible. Besides being welcoming and making everything to make me feel part of their own family, with them I learned to leave my computer behind and re-discovered the beauty of spending the night sharing time with my Italian parents and little sisters, having 2 hour conversations over dinner and playing - from card games to pillow fights - with my little sisters, Giulia and Martina.
I originally had planned to stay in Florence for just one quarter, but because I loved my experience so much during the fall and it was painful to think of leaving so soon, I considered staying an extra quarter but my required coursework was an obstacle. The staff in the Stanford center encouraged me to stay telling me of the advantages of an extra quarter, among which was an internship. I told the staff my interests and in no time I had an excellent opportunity lined up even though I was not set on staying an extra quarter yet. As soon as I met my prospective internship mentor, my boss, and my prospective workplace, I was set on staying an extra quarter. I interned at Intoscana, Tuscany’s official website, where I took an important role in the marketing of the English section. It was an extraordinary experience and an internship I would never have been able to find back in America, allowing me to benefit professionally but also to expand my knowledge of Italian culture to the workplace.
During my second quarter in Florence I felt like a real Florentine. I became a real resident of the city, and it felt wonderful to go around the city already knowing where I was going without having to look at a map, knowing what the best restaurants and gelaterias in the city where, and already knowing all the secrets
and tricks learned in the first few months. However, Florence never lost its spark and it never ceased to enchant me. I kept on learning about Italy everyday, but what changed during my second quarter was that I got to experience and be acquainted with another side of the Florentine life, its social problems, on a deeper and more significant level. With the help of the Florence staff, I was able to do some public service work with the Associazione Progetto Arcobaleno, which welcomed and offered support and aid to immigrants, such as Italian classes. In my volunteering I thus helped this association with the school they had and taught Italian to immigrants. This opportunity was one of the highlights of my stay in Florence because it allowed me to experience and take part of one of the major social challenges that Italy faces today and because it gave me a unique insight into a social problem that I would like to address in the future.
Overall, I got everything I wanted and so much more. Thanks to the Stanford program in Florence I got an appreciation of Italian culture that I never thought I would get, I grew personally and academically, and I did find my second home.