NYU First Year Away: Florence Edition

Beginning your education as a First Year Away (FYA) Liberal Studies student in the birthplace of the Renaissance gives you access to a singular experience that only a city such as Florence, Italy, can offer

 

NYU First Year Away (FYA) is an opportunity for Liberal Studies students to begin college in the global arena. As an FYA student, you start out at one of NYU’s sites in Florence, London, Madrid, Paris, or Washington, DC. There, you will bond with a smaller cohort and experience all your new city has to offer. And all the while, you’ll take courses that fit seamlessly into the Liberal Studies Core curriculum.

If your first year is at NYU Florence, you will study just north of the city center at La Pietra. A 57-acre estate, it features the olive groves and manicured gardens of a classic Tuscan landscape. Five historic villas house student residences, classrooms, computer labs, study lounges, and dining and exercise facilities. NYU also offers classes inside Villa La Pietra, which dates from the 15th century and is home to one of Europe’s first house museums.

The Curriculum

All Liberal Studies and Global Liberal Studies FYA students take Liberal Studies Core curriculum courses. These include courses in writing, art and culture, and global works and society. Students will also take courses that engage with the language or culture of their new city. “I found the curriculum grounding as I was transitioning to college and living in Florence,” says Cristina Kovalik from North Carolina. “The courses in the Cultural Foundations Sequence and Social Foundations Sequence [now called Arts and Culture Sequence and Global Works and Society Sequence] gave me a solid basis for my understanding of humanities.” Hasan Halai from Karachi, Pakistan, says, “The FYA curriculum not only introduced us to college life at NYU but also inspired us. With students from all over the world with all sorts of experiences, classes were a great converging point.”

NYU’s academic center in Florence.
A fountain at NYU Florence.

The Campus

At NYU Florence, Villa Ulivi is the main academic building where most classes are held. “Villa Ulivi is beautiful, with classic Florentine yellow and green window shutters,” says Hasan. “The classrooms have massive floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the Tuscan hills. Surrounded by a beautiful landscape and sculptures from the Renaissance, it was difficult not to feel good while in class.”

Students hanging out on the steps of a statue in Florence.
Students looking at architecture in Florence.

City As Classroom

Many courses take you into the city’s museums to study art and culture firsthand. “In my fall semester, I had a class held among the ruins of an Etruscan amphitheatre,” says Cristina. Margaret Guzman, from New Jersey, says that exploring the city taught her a lot about herself. “There is not a more conducive place to learn Western philosophy, art, and culture than a city where a lot of it happened. Being in Florence helped me realize that immersion is the most valuable and effective way for me to learn,” she says. “The fact that I was able to visit the actual sites covered in my classes helped me absorb the information more easily.”

Students studying in school library.

Italian Language Study

All FYA students take Italian at the beginner, intermediate, or advanced level. When asked if studying in Florence improved her Italian language skills, Julia Huang, also from New Jersey, says, “Sì, certo! I took the Intensive Intermediate class because I’m somewhat conversational in Italian. But I tried to speak Italian as much as I could when I went to the city.” Margaret’s Italian class had an up-close encounter with nature. “Our class went to Giardino Bardini, a garden with a breathtaking view of the Florentine skyline. Practicing my Italian there was such a treat.”

“A Dreamlike City”

Florence is the principal city of Italy’s Tuscany region. It is an ideal place to learn about the past and future of modern Europe and the central role of the humanities in any field of study. “Living in Florence has been a great part of my journey and has given me new perspectives,” says Cristina. “I have an interest in international politics, laws, and cultures. So to have a deeper understanding of another place in the world has strengthened my education.” Hasan says, “I fell in love with Florence as soon as I landed there. It is a dreamlike city, so rich in art, history, and culture.”

Student reading in a dorm room.

Residences and Homestays

FYA students reside in one of two restored villas on the La Pietra estate or in a homestay with a Florentine family. “The proximity of the two villas that hold the first-year students really helped us all to get to know one another,” says Margaret. “I was fortunate enough to become best friends with my next-door neighbors. And that still remains true to this day.” Cristina opted for a more culturally immersive homestay experience. “I really connected with my Florentine homestay family,” she says. “I hope that, if I return to Florence, I will be able to see them again.”

Community Engagement

At NYU Florence, there are a number of ways for students to be of service to the community. For example, Cristina says, “I volunteered in Florence on a weekly basis and helped teach English at a Florentine elementary school.” Isabel Schmieta, who hails from Marietta, Georgia, worked at a local community center. “I volunteered for an after-school program where we did a variety of hands-on activities with the children, often bringing in American traditions to teach them about our culture as well.”

Students eating gelato outside a shop.
Three students hanging out in Florence.

Friendships and Connections

Many FYA students say they formed connections with their peers in Florence that still endure today. “I was fortunate enough to meet my closest friends right off the bat,” says Margaret. “And they are still my roommates now in New York City. My friends from Florence are the people I see and connect with the most.” At NYU Florence, it’s not uncommon to also form connections with faculty and staff. Hasan says, “I connected with my peer advisers, who were often juniors or seniors, and those contacts still remain. In fact, I made friends and created wonderful, unforgettable memories with people on and off campus.”

Events and Trips

To enhance your experience at NYU Florence, faculty and the Office of Student Life plan activities that are both educational and enjoyable. “There were weekend trips to nearby cities like Cinque Terre, five villages on the Mediterranean coast,” says Hasan. “We had great guest speakers like Helena Bonham Carter and Angela Davis. And I had a chance to see the Dalai Lama speak at an event.” One of Margaret’s professors took their class to Rome. “I studied Roman history in high school. But I never would have imagined I would raise my hand to answer my professor’s question behind the Colosseum!”