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Garden Teacher

No, I am not taking a horticulture class as I study abroad. The title of this post comes from my art history professor. She introduced herself by having us repeat her name back to her and then asking if anyone knew what her name meant. Only one student in this class is fluent in Italian, so he was the lone soul who answered for us. As it turns out, her last name means “garden.” She told us if we ever forget her name or how to pronounce it, we can simply call her Ms. Garden. Something as basic as this introduction shows me that I will enjoy my time in her class. All three of my art history classes are taught by her and I can honestly say I am eager to be in the lectures.

Every art history professor I’ve had the fortune of taking a course with is passionate about what he or she studies. Each is obviously an expert in the period that he or she has chosen, but all of them desire for this expertise to be worn off on his or her students. My professors teach me to look critically at a work of art, to go past the aesthetics and examine the work from a social, political, etc. context. She has this passion, but it means even more abroad because she is from and continues to reside in the city housing the art she is passionate about.

In my second class with her last week, she told us that she has learned so much more about the world through the lenses of art history. She told us she is not a wonderful historian, but has understood history by reading the images, the art. She has understood science and politics through the context of art history. She told us that this subject is a vehicle to understand the past.

Yesterday, in my first class of the week with her, we took a field trip to the church we were just discussing in the classroom. Our classes are two and a half hours, so we have the time to take excursions into the city. What other experience is like this? My professors at home lecture over images of works of art or architecture projected over a screen, but here, my professor highlights the frescoes by Giotto as we walk through the church, points out the wooden beams as we wander underneath them, and has us pay attention to the stones used in the columns as we touch them when we pass. I feel so fortunate to be here.

In the second class of the week with her yesterday, we continued to discuss Giotto. She told us that her professor gave her a 29 out of 30 for some project, and when she asked the professor why she was marked down, she was told it was because she was too passionate. She then told us that she does not like to say she deserves anything, but she felt that she deserved the 30 out of 30 because to be passionate about what you do and learn is good. She said she was angry and believes her professor is wrong. She said that we, as art historians, do not need to be passionate about what she is passionate about, or cool with what she is cool about, but to be passionate about something. That, she said, is what marks a good art historian.

And then she proceeded to tell us about one of her favorite frescoes and explain what makes her passionate about it, jokingly, with hopes of making us passionate about it, too.


First Four in Firenze

Phew! I’ve made it to my new Florentine home. Here’s how things have gone down in the past four days. First of all, it is Saturday around 6:30 pm as I type this, and I got here Wednesday morning, and this is the first I’ve been alone. As an introvert, it is nice to decompress with this time and write.


  • Woke up and drove to MCI to catch the 7:30 am flight to Atlanta
  • 5 hour layover for international flight, drank too sweet of an iced latte, prepared for take-off
  • 8.5 hour flight to Paris, sat next to a Moroccan student going home from his study abroad experience


  • Landed in Paris at 5:40 am, navigated around the MASSIVE airport (this sucker is gigantic)
  • Flight from Paris to Florence, landed around 9 am Florence time
  • Transported back to the apartment and climbed the 88 stairs (with my luggage) to my new home for the next 3.5 months
  • Took a shower, unpacked, and napped before orientation in the evening, realized I had been up for almost 22 hours
  • Began to navigate and withdrew Euros from the local bank, in awe of casually walking by the Duomo everyday (teared up)
  • Orientation and dinner in the evening, first Margherita pizza and it was so good
  • Sleep, finally
This is the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as Il Duomo di Firenze, also known as the Duomo. I walk by this every single day.


My first meal in Florence, Margherita pizza.


  • Tried out my Italian to order in a coffeeshop, mine is poor, thankful for people who understand minor bits of English
  • Espresso and chocolate croissants may be my new favorite things
  • Orientation with ISA
  • Explored the Mercato Centrale by San Lorenzo for fresh fruit and bread and meat
  • Ate fresh mozzarella and pesto open-faced sandwiches
  • Walking tour of Florence, fan-girled over the art and architecture everywhere
  • Dinner at a heavily trafficked American restaurant, must branch out to the non-American places
  • Wandered Florence at night, slowly getting my bearings
My delicious and beautiful breakfast.


  • Walked to the Arno and ate a delicious chocolate croissant for breakfast, along with an espresso (new classic)
  • Orientation at the university, fan-girled over the school and my classes
  • Ate lunch at a panino shop for €5, absolutely delicious, will frequent here twice a week, can save other half for later
  • Hike to Piazzale Michelangelo, walked into my first basilica of the semester, San Miniato al Monte (cried here)
  • Wandered around Florence, walked into boutiques, found a gelato place that was filled with locals, good sign
  • Planned weekend trips with roommates
  • Welcome reception in the evening in a Renaissance palazzo
  • Wandered to find a little dinner place, ate delicious tiramisu, went promptly home to sleep
  • Didn’t fall asleep until 2 am
Here’s a beautiful view of Tuscany from the mini hike.


  • Woke up at noon, got ready to meet a friend for wandering/shopping
  • Walked Florence alone and got to where I needed all by myself, proud big girl moment
  • Bought a Florentine leather bag from the market by San Lorenzo
  • Met some girls to plan the weekend trips
  • Ate other half of panino in bed to decompress and listened to American music
  • Typed up this post and will now peruse the Italian Netflix selection