Senior Grace Badger knew she wanted to study abroad in Italy from the moment she stepped on campus. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, her experience was delayed. When she was finally able to go to Florence this fall, she was met with a city rich in culture, history, food and art.

“I took a big leap of faith. None of my friends came with me, and it was all really people in the grade below me,” Badger said. “But the food, the people … it all just made sense for me to go.” 

The Elon Center Abroad in Florence, Italy, was voted “Best Study Abroad” by the campus community. The program is open to students across all majors looking to experience the historical city, while completing 16 credit hours of classes — including four credit hours of Italian. 

In addition to classes, students experience weekend excursions, sports events and museums all included in the cost of the program. 

Associate director of Study Abroad and program adviser Bill Burress said students who participate in the program are driven by the romance of the city and have powerful experiences connecting with not only other students in the program, but the people who inhabit the city. 

“Students report that they've built a relationship with someone that they saw sort of on a daily basis at a cafe,” Burress said. “They’ve built some kind of little touchstone in that way that helps them feel a part of the place.”  

For Badger, the experience of hiking up to Michaelangelo Piazza with her roommates and watching the sunset over the city was her “ah-ha” moment while studying abroad, and one she will never forget.