The Perks of Studying Abroad – by Ségolène Guitton

Thinking of studying abroad, but not quite sure if you are ready to take that step forward? If you ask people who have studied abroad most of them will tell you it is a life-changing experience and that if anyone has the opportunity to do so, they should go for it. So for those who are still undecided here are my top reasons as to why you should study abroad and what you can get out of it:

1. “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” Neal D. Walsch – That’s right, you will never know what life really has to offer if you don’t step out of your comfort zone and yes, I know how nice and comfy one’s comfort zone can be: it’s safe, you know everybody and where everything is but there is also very little space for experience and by the time you realise that an opportunity like this may not come again.

2. Studying abroad is the best and most effective way to learn a language – You are probably thinking ‘new country, new language’, well instead thinking of it as a problem, think of that language barrier as a positive aspect of your study abroad program ; that’s right! things may be a little hard when you first get there but trust me it will all be worth it when you are able to write down on your CV that you can speak a language other than English and you are able talk your way out of a bad situation because you took the time to learn your hosting county’s language. Trust me, learning a language is hard but by being immersed in a country where that particular language is spoken will make so much difference: you will be exposed to the language all the time, and you will unknowingly pick up few expressions right there and then, this will expand your vocab and by the end of your program, you will be surprised at how much you have actually learned just by being in a country where the language you are studying is spoken.

3. Studying abroad gives you the opportunity to travel further than you thought – okay so you have decided to go study abroad for a semester in Rome, Italy well guess what? Rome and Italy are not the only city and country you will have the opportunity to visit. Italy is a neighbour to France, Switzerland and so many more countries that even though they may sound far away, they are so much closer than you think. Have you been dreaming of that view of Paris from the Eiffel tower or that trip to London? Well now you have the opportunity to experience it for real.

4. Expand your social network – let’s say that in a couple of years you’ve decided that you want to move across the world and start a new life somewhere new, well, at that specific time you will be glad that you studied abroad and made friends from all over the world. Study abroad programs are available all around the globe, that means that the people taking part in your destination’s study abroad programs won’t all be from the same country you will therefore meet people from each four corners of the world and as you live together for the next couple of months, you might end up making friendships that will last a lifetime. These friendships will be useful in the future if you ever needed advice while traveling or help if you end up in a foreign country. For example, as you travel through a new city you might be glad to have a friend from that specific city who can tell you all the great spots around the city that little to no tourist would know.

5. Experience a new education system – studying abroad will give you the opportunity to experience a new education system: it will give you a break from your current academic routine and it will also give you the opportunity to take courses that may not have been offered at your home campus.

6. Study abroad can enhance future employment opportunities – that’s right, when comes the time for you to actually find a job you will be glad that you took part in a study abroad program. Why? Because employers think of the people who have actually taken the step forward to studying in a foreign country to be self-motivated, independent and more able to cope with challenges thus setting you apart from the rest.

7. Ready, Set, Grow – traveling makes you grow as a person, in the sense that you learn to be on your own and more importantly to think on your own. You develop skills that will prove useful both in your personal life and your future career – while traveling abroad you will be exposed to the little challenges of your life that even though may be little, you will learn a great deal from. One thing many people learn while traveling abroad is  learning to navigate yourself, I know it may seem silly but you have no idea how many people in the world who do not know how to use a map. Yes, as of today we are able to access maps with GPS locators which you only have access to with the help of the internet, but using the internet on your phone while traveling abroad is pretty pricey so you will be bound to use an actual map at some point!

8. Change your view of the world – the world as you see it now in the comfort of your cozy little life is so different once you see all the things it has to offer you – by taking a study abroad program you experience the world outside of the classroom: no picture or story will ever amount to the feeling you get standing on top of the Eiffel tower or on the great wall of China. The only way you are going to experience the world the way it is is by actually being there in the moment, seeing it, touching it, experiencing it and taking it all in.

That being said, get out there and experience the world!

The Fleur-de-Lys: The Symbol of Florence – by Ségolène Guitton

While my past three entries have been concentrated on fashion and what Florence has to offer in that department, I have decided to take a different direction for this blog entry – life in Florence always leads back to its abundant history and why not start with the symbol that has represented the city for the past centuries?

The Fleur-de-Lys is a widely recognised symbol; it is most famously associated with the French monarchy and continues to appear as the enduring symbol of France but it has also appeared on countless European coat-of-arms and flags including the arms of the King of Spain and the Grand Duke of Luxembourg. Furthermore, the Fleur-de-Lys is also the ultimate symbol of Florence, Italy. Representing the coat of arms of the city of Florence, the Fleur-de-Lys symbol cannot be ignored as you walk around the city and its historical monuments. Although, the Fleur-de-Lys is an easily recognised symbol, the Florentine Fleur-de-Lys itself is different from the original design: if you look closer you will realise that the stamens are always posed between the petals as a way to distinguish it from the more conventional design. The design includes a red stylised three-leaved lily flower over a white canvas, which if you did not know used to be the opposite: it was changed back when the city of Florence freed itself from the German in 1252.

As part of this blog entry, I went on a little photography task which included walking around the city and trying to spot as many Fleur-de-Lys as I could possibly find. To my surprise they are everywhere and I mean everywhere; the logo of the Banca Toscana, as part of a decoration on some of those big wooden building doors, on the pavement, on Arnolfo’s tower on the Palazzo Vecchio… etc. The place where you will find a large number of them is in the Sala dei Gigli (Hall of Lilies) in the Palazzo Vecchio situated on Piazza della Signoria. Florence, being so attached to their Fleur-de-Lys, they have also made it the symbol of their football team, Fiorentina.

If you come to Florence in spring, I would urge you to visit the Iris Garden; situated within close proximity of the Piazzale Michelangelo, the garden is home to some thousands species of lilies and during a nice spring afternoon, you will be able to admire them in a fantastic light as they are scattered around the garden.

Salvatore Ferragamo: A love story based on Shoes – by Ségolène Guitton

For those of you who have never heard of Salvatore Ferragamo or know little of him, here is a biography of someone who went on to become one of the world’s most famous shoe designer.
Salvatore Ferragamo was born on June 28th 1898 in Bonito, a small commune in the south of Italy. At the young age of 9, Ferragamo made his first pair of shoes for one of his sisters to wear for her confirmation, and as he grew older it became clear to him that he had found his calling. After a couple of years, Ferragamo decided to go to Naples to study shoe-making and after a little while he decided to open a shop based out of his parent’s home. However, soon after Ferragamo decided to emigrate to the United States to pursue his career in the shoe-making business – he moved to California and after opening a shop for shoe repair and made-to-fit shoes he found success among celebrities of the day and designing footwear for the cinema industry. Although, Ferragamo found success among this glamorous industry, he remained unsatisfied to the fact that although his shoes were atheistically pleasing they were painful to the foot itself. Following his instinct, Ferragamo decided to study anatomy and went on to enroll at the University of Southern California. In 1927, Ferragamo returned to Italy but this time he decided to settle in Florence and open a workshop while concentrating on the science of shoe-making. Ferragamo’s success grew bigger everyday and during the 1950s, he ended up expanding to a fully staffed work crew of around 700 expert artisans that produced 350 pairs of handmade shoes a day. Ferragamo died in 1960 at the age of 62, leaving behind his wife Wanda and 6 children who eventually went on to run the Ferragamo company. The company went on to expand its operation by including luxury handbags, eye-wear, watches, perfumes and a ready-to-wear clothing line.
The Salvatore Ferragamo Museum situated Via dei Torbabuoni has opened its door since June 20th to an exhibition paying homage to Marilyn Monroe. You may ask what is the connection between an internationally renowned shoe designer and a famous starlet from the fifties? Well, as Salvatore Ferragamo’s success increased, he started to design shoes for some of the wealthiest and most powerful women of the century and this is how Ferragamo started a great friendship with Marilyn Monroe. As Monroe’s acting and modeling career took off, she needed more and more pairs of shoes to attend various events, and this is how Marilyn Monroe went on to become one of Ferragamo’s most loyal customer as well being credited for the inspiration of Ferragamo’s famous four-inch heel pumps.
If you are hungry for anything fashion related, I would urge you to check out the exhibition before its closing date which is quickly approaching.
The Marilyn Monroe exhibition is set to run until January 28th, 2013 and the entrance fee is 5€.

For more information on current events and upcoming exhibitions please visit