Lessons from Florence


By: Samantha Guzman

Carla Zurita is an art history/psychology major from Newark whose goal is to give back and make a difference within her community. She studied abroad in Florence, Italy last fall and took home with her some very valuable lessons.

“Study Abroad was a challenge scenario for me. When I signed up I was out of my comfort zone- I really put my bags on the plane before I was ready. But when I was there I was exposed to different spaces and cultural backgrounds and it really opened my eyes to a new sphere of diversity. When I was there I felt ‘I can be whatever I want,’ I can dress how I want, do what I want. I noticed that here I only truly expressed myself to my full capacity or freely within certain spaces where I felt most comfortable, spaces that are what we call here ‘safe spaces,’ which have kind of been ingrained in American culture as a component of diversity, as if that’s something that is available in a diverse community. Where over there, with the development of their creative communities, and humanities, and the arts, ‘safe space’ isn’t even a thing. It’s just assumed that you can do whatever you want or dress however you want and, if anything, no one will look at you like you’re bizarre. So I felt that was a really large cultural contrast between America and Florence. Florence would be the ideal example of how creativity and freedom of expression is incorporated efficiently into a community, however I feel that the United States, very generally speaking, is far from that experience. It has to be taken into steps, starting with creating safe spaces; we have to reach there before we reach [Florence]. And that’s something I definitely carried back with me. Coming back from Florence I have the picture in mind- I know the direction I want to see my communities going into.”