Center for International Programs - Study Abroad

Student Profile: Jess Nevins - Gonzaga University in Florence, Italy


Major(s): Food Marketing and Leadership, Ethics, and Organizational Sustainability

Abroad Program: Gonzaga University

Where & When: Florence, Italy

Favorite Course: Cross Cultural Communication

Highlight: Traveling to eight different countries

Best Excursion: Weekend in the Alps in Switzerland 

 Favorite Dish: Pesto Lasagna

Least Favorite Dish: Loved them all

Next Destination: Australia

Describe your living situation.

While abroad in Florence, I lived with other Gonzaga students in what we called a “pensione”. They are described as small Italian boarding homes. I personally loved the pensione living. My pensione was located about three blocks from school and about a 15 minute walk from the Duomo (the large cathedral in the center of Florence). My pensione was the smallest out of the seven in our program that ranged from 12 to 40 students per building. There were nine girls and three guys living in my pensione and I shared a room with two other girls. We had a small kitchen and our meals were all provided for us, which was one of my favorite things about my program! At 1:00pm all the students in my program would go back to their pensione’s to have lunch. We had a chef who prepared all of the meals. In Italy they eat a first plate, usually a pasta or soup and then a second plate, usually a meat and vegetable. After lunch we would either go back to school for classes, hangout in our pensione, or explore Florence depending on the day. Then at 7:00pm we would all gather in our pensione’s again for dinner. Most pensiones are owned by an Italian family. So it is always fun to get to know the owner and their family as well. 

How has this experience changed you?

The Gonzaga program was made up of mostly students from the main campus in Spokane, Washington. At first this was a little intimidating to be in a new place with all unfamiliar people who seemed to know each other. However, this experience has taught me to be more outgoing. Although the Gonzaga students were all very welcoming, I was also forced to go outside my comfort zone and introduce myself to new people. What some may view as a disadvantage, I tried to view not knowing anyone as an advantage. I could meet new people and get to know them throughout the semester and travel with different people every weekend. This is exactly what I did and I would not change anything about the initially overwhelming situation. Of course this experience has also given me a greater appreciation for different cultures I was able to experience as I travelled to eight different countries. I also gain a greater appreciation for the United States and my home, as Italy seemed to often be behind with many practices that I took for granted in the U.S.

Describe your best travel experience.

I had several amazing travel experiences so it is of course very difficult to pick a favorite. However, one unique aspect of the Gonzaga in Florence Program is that all the students travel on an Opening Tour at the beginning of the program. In the fall the Opening Tour is about  ten days and in the spring it is for a weekend. My Opening Tour was in the fall and we started in Paris, traveled through France to Strasbourg. Next we stopped in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany for a few nights and then we finished the trip by driving to Florence. Each day we had some activities, tours, and day trips planned by the school to learn about each place. We also had a lot of free time to explore on our own. It was a great way to learn how to travel in Europe, meet other students in the program, as well as adjust to being abroad. The Opening Tour was a large reason I choose the Gonzaga in Florence Program and it was one of the highlights of my four-month adventure abroad!