Image from Alyssa Johnson's Whittier Typologies series
Image from Alyssa Johnson's Whittier Typologies series

Every spring semester, several junior MCAD students apply to study abroad all over the globe.

Once accepted, students have several months to anticipate, prepare for, and figure out what their life abroad will be like. Alyssa Johnson, a junior photography major, is going to be studying abroad in Florence, Italy this semester. I chatted with her about why she chose Florence, how she's getting ready, and how MCAD's student ambassadors helped her out.

Alyssa Johnson, junior photography major

Hey, Alyssa. So, Florence! Why did you choose to go there? How long will you be overseas?

I chose to study in Florence because I thought the program was different from the other options and offered more of an opportunity to choose what you work on; I also chose this program because I’ve always wanted to visit Italy, and I’ve wanted to study abroad since I knew what it was. I will be abroad for five months total: the end of January through the end of June.

What makes Florence different from other study abroad programs is that you only have one class for your whole stay, and instead of additional classes you choose a semester-long project to work on in depth. I have chosen to focus on architectural photography for my main project.

What are you most excited about?

I’m really excited to see what Florence has to offer! I’ve never been out of North America so I’m excited to see different cultures as well as to try to learn the language to the best of my ability.

Architectural photography by Alyssa Johnson

What are you nervous about?

What I’m excited about is also what I’m nervous about—learning a new language is hard and I don’t want to stick out too much because I don’t know the culture. I also hope to make some friends abroad so I can meet different people.

Have you talked to/gotten any advice from other students about their experiences abroad?

I have been talking with a student ambassador since before I applied for the program and she has given me so much advice. I feel so much better knowing the things she has shared with me, and knowing I can ask her questions while I’m in Italy is great. She’s shared things like where I can get some good food and interesting things to do around the area.

What steps have you taken to prepare for your semester abroad?

I have written too many packing lists, I have planned some places to travel to, and a few other things, but I feel like this is something I can’t plan very easily until I’m already there. Waiting to plan or not planning isn’t something that comes easily to me; I’m always planning things way in advance, so I’ve already learned a little from this experience before I even get on the plane.

Another image from Alyssa Johnson's Whittier Typologies series 

Do you think studying abroad will influence you/your work?

I hope studying abroad influences my work. I want this to be something I really learn and grow from and something I can use in the future. I want to use this opportunity to learn about the different subjects I am interested in and go further with them.

Can you describe the project(s) you will be working on while abroad? 

The main project I will be working on in Florence is a portfolio of architectural photography throughout Florence and Italy. I also want to focus on candid portraits of people for a side project. I think this could really help me look for differences in people, between Americans and Italians. I might try to figure out another project along the way, but I’m not sure yet.

Are any other MCAD students going to Italy this spring?

There are two others joining me for this program! I’ve known one since my first year at MCAD and the other I met in October. I have gotten to know them both a little, but it will be interesting to learn more about each other in such a different setting than here. We are all in different majors, so it will be interesting to see how we each view the city.

Interior architectural photograph by Alyssa Johnson

Lastly, what would you like to say to your future self on your last day of studying abroad?

“Congratulations, you made it. I hope you have achieved what you wanted, learned as much as you could have, and had an amazing time to look back on with fond memories. Use this experience to your advantage, and pass your knowledge on to the next group studying abroad. They’ll probably appreciate it.”