What do you think sets Florence apart from other programs? ?
Jeffrey Rozman: I’m not one to argue whose program is the best but on the weekends our house was always booked. There’s so much to do in the city. You can’t see Florence in a year. There’s so much history there I don’t know how you cannot be inspired by living where the Renaissance happened. It’s just magical. You feel like you’re Michelangelo. You authentically feel Italian.
We all know how much everyone raves about the food in Italy. What are your feelings?
Café Lib [where Florence students eat breakfast during the weekend] is essentially every single childhood fantasy come true. There is nothing better than coming back from Prague after 18 hours of traveling and waking up the next morning to Café Lib.
How was your staff?
The teachers are amazing. Giuliano is amazing. He’s my Facebook friend. Our director literally does more for our program and her students than any other program director. We got to see the pope and she got us soccer jerseys for our team.
How did your group interact with the community? ?
We were in a legitimate Florence soccer league. A lot of people wanted to beat us because we were the Americans but we held our ground. We had some really good ballers.
We did Big Brother-Big Sister which was a 2 hour hang out session where we would help them [Italian children] with their English skills through different games and we put on a big play. It was fun for us to see the kids and see some kind of American mentor in their lives.
We did Adopt-a-Family where usually two to three students go to one family. My family had us over for dinner weekly. It was also cool because we did stuff with them outside the Adopt-a-Family program. One time we went golfing.
How do you think Americans were received in Florence?
Honestly I felt they loved us. You can hear mixed reviews on that one but all the restaurants were so nice to us. Wherever we went out on the night everyone was so nice to us. Americans bring a kind of energy and Italians are already more outgoing so it worked.
What was living in the Villa like?
I had the smallest room. I lived in a 5×8 closet but it was so cozy and cool. The villa takes on a symbolic meaning of family. Villa Love. It just was really cool because you’re so cramped in there with 57 other students but it really helps you gain a sense of community. The whole villa is really a masterpiece in itself. It’s decorated with memorabilia from other programs so you really get a sense of the Pepperdine community that was there before you. It’s very warm and emotional and great. It used to be a hotel so it made the living a little bit better. We have our own chef so the food was amazing. The courtyard was really cool too. You could go out and see the stars at night. And the dogs were really nice. We had two dogs.
How do you think living in a city with so much history helped you apply what you learned in the classroom to your life?
It’s the coolest thing to read something in your humanities book and then go see it. There’s nothing like reading about a piece of art and then realizing what it took to make it. It’s really inspiring and so much better than seeing it dead in a book. It’s just awesome trying to put the whole idea of the Renaissance into your life. I wanted to create my own Renaissance in my life and I think that’s something you can only really get if you live in Florence.
What were some of the ways your group really bonded?
The difficulty of the academics really brought our house together and that sounds weird but literally when you’re up at two three in the morning cramming for a humanities final or having to write a 12-page paper everyone in the villa is doing that and helping each other out. But the way that our group bonded the most was the soccer team. The guys played and the girls came out [to watch]. Everyone just cheered for everyone. It didn’t matter if you were good or not. I didn’t get a goal the whole year but one time I got really close and everyone was so excited. I think that was the most excited our group got. Even our teachers came out to watch. We also had set meal times when everyone would just be there and that was when everyone got to talk. We just enjoyed the food and company.
How did your overseas experience change you in a way that might not have happened if you had stayed in Malibu?
I think everyone leaves Florence with a newfound appreciation of art and the humanities. As an advertising major it just gave me a new perspective. They way they were able to tell a story back in the 17th and 18th centuries with only pictures was amazing. Seeing the ideas they expressed religion politics literally in the city broadened your horizons. I feel like if I didn’t go to Europe I would have a narrow perspective. It’s very easy for us to be in our American bubble and not see what’s really going on in the world. Especially being over there during the elections was exciting. It was really exciting seeing how they were so interested in American politics. I think they knew more about American politics than most of the people in our house did.
Any advice for freshmen who are considering going to Florence next year?
First off don’t be intimidated that it’s the most popular program. People won’t apply because they think they won’t get in but have confidence. If you know you want to go to Florence apply. You have to bring true passion for Florence to the table. Truly think about why you want to go. What do you want to see? The art? The history? Make a list of things you want to do ‘cause you’re only going to be able to do half of them. Even if you don’t get into Florence don’t worry because you’ll still have opportunities to go to another overseas program or Florence for the summer. Talk to people who have gone to Florence and why they love the city. Even if they weren’t in the program more than likely they visited so ask them what they loved about it.