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 Back to SummaryGianna Masi - Student Profile

photo of Gianna Masi
Gianna Masi -
MAJOR: French and Italian

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I knew I wanted to study abroad long before attending Stanford. I wasn’t really sure where I wanted to go, but looking back it is easy to see why I chose Florence as my destination; I grew up in a large family whose Italian roots showed mostly through loud conversation and lots of pasta. Studying Italian upon arrival at Stanford seemed like a natural way to connect with my heritage and learn more about where I come from, and studying in Florence even more so. I was determined to be abroad in Italy for two quarters so I could get the most out of my time there.

I chose to go to Florence in the winter and spring. As a native of Los Angeles, I have never lived in cold weather. Needless to say, it was REALLY cold! It was definitely a new experience wearing a coat, scarf, and gloves on a regular basis. My home stay was outside the city center and I learned to use public transportation for pretty much the first time in my life. Rain or shine, I grew to love taking the bus to San Marco square, walking past the Duomo and crossing the Ponte Vecchio every day on my way to school. Every once in a while I would pass the cathedral and think, “I can’t believe I’m here right now!” It was truly surreal.

My home stay was outside the city center and close to the small hill town of Fiesole. Although it took me longer to get into the city and to school, I loved the feel of living in a suburban area. There were no tourists, just locals, and I enjoyed exploring the little shops, cafes, and the amazing gelateria nearby. But my favorite part of my home stay was my family.

After graduating high school I studied abroad for a month in Spain. I was hosted by a Spanish couple but didn’t become very close with them, something I later regretted. So in coming to Florence I really wanted to create a meaningful relationship with my host family. After all, I would be staying there for almost six months! Within a few days of living with my new family I knew I had nothing to worry about. I lived with a host mom and sister and their two adorable cats, Luna and Felix. I also had a host brother who lived close enough to come to dinner almost every night after work (SO Italian). They welcomed me into their lives with open arms and hearts; I don’t know what I would have done without them. My first few weeks were stressful, exciting, scary, and a million other things. I won’t say that it wasn’t difficult at the beginning: summoning up the courage to speak Italian, getting lost on the way to school, making new friends. But having my host family to come home to allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief. I could relax, enjoy a wonderful meal, and talk about my day with my family. Some of my favorite memories take place in the kitchen, where I sat many days after classes doing homework while talking with my host mom as she made dinner. I went to the movies with my host sister and we gossiped about the latest TV shows (Vampire Diaries, anyone?). I went out on the weekends with my host brother, switching back and forth from Italian to English to Italian. And how can I forget the epic, three hour Sunday brunches, followed by Sunday pizza night? I did a fair amount of traveling in those six months, but I cherished the weekends spent at home.

My weekdays were spent in class, and the academic opportunities I pursued through Stanford thoroughly exceeded my expectations. The truth is that I didn’t originally have a very rigorous schedule in mind for my time abroad. I wanted to make sure that I had enough time to dedicate to my classes while also exploring the city and culture of Florence. However, with help from the awesome Stanford staff, I was able to experience the life in Florence through two great academic opportunities: an internship and a directed reading in Italian sociolinguistics. I interned in the spring at a small independent bookstore/art gallery, translating its website from Italian to English. I fell in love with the subtle intricacies of translation and my boss and co-worker were less colleagues than they were friends. Every day that I came to work, no matter what time it was, we would go to the bar across the street for a coffee. They offered helpful advice on anything and everything and made me feel at home.

The directed reading I took spring quarter was probably one of the most unexpected things that happened to me while abroad, but it also turned out to be one of the most fulfilling. I took the course with Fiorenza Quercioli, the language professor at the Stanford Center. I was pretty intimidated by the prospect of reading a sociolinguistics manual and writing a twenty page paper in Italian. However, it was the most interesting class I have ever taken. And in writing my final paper I achieved something I would have never thought I could do before going abroad.

That’s the thing about studying in foreign country. Opportunities arise and amazing things happen. My directed reading is only one example. I encountered many unexpected situations in Florence that turned into life changing experiences and friendships. If I were to give advice to anyone going abroad, it would be to embrace the unexpected. Jump into it. It might be scary and exhilarating and awkward and hilarious. But it will be amazing, and you will never forget it for the rest of your life.

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