STANFORD, Calif. - Junior Alicia Kapjian-Pitt traveled to Florence, Italy for the fall quarter as part of the Bing Overseas Studies Program.
There have been several previous members of the lightweight rowing team who have gone abroad and shared their experiences with the younger members of the team. Kapjian-Pitt may have had the best first-hand knowledge about the Bing Program from her older sister, Julianna. After rowing for four seasons with the open weights at Stanford, Julianna graduated last year. She studied abroad in Barcelona during the summer between her junior and senior year.
“We had seen the 2012 class do something similar where they went abroad and my sister went abroad, so each of us juniors decided that we wanted to have an experience like that,” said Alicia.
Alicia, a communications major, decided on Florence after having visited there with her family when she was younger. Even though she had taken seven years of French and two quarters of Spanish as a freshman, she opted to go to Italy. Thus she took Italian all three quarters of her sophomore year to meet the language requirement.
“I was still not fluent in Italian at all,” said Kapjian-Pitt. “I had been to Madrid and it is a beautiful city, but between the two I knew I wanted to go to Florence.”
Kapjian-Pitt did not get off to a great start with her Florence experience. The language barrier was evident when she went the wrong way to find her luggage. She ended up outside and could not get back in to the airport to pick up her bags.
“I am running around the airport trying to figure out what to do and since my Italian wasn’t great I couldn’t really talk to anyone about it,” said Kapjian-Pitt. “I couldn’t say that my baggage was left behind so I figured out how to say that I forgot I had baggage. They thought I was incredibly dumb.”
The delay in picking up her bags may or may not have contributed to the sequence of events that followed. When she arrived at her home stay the door was locked and nobody was answering.
“We couldn’t call because our phones didn’t work over there,” said Kapjian-Pitt. “I was madness and chaos. We finally found a person down the street who let us borrow their phone to call and we got in. That was my introduction to Florence.”
Despite the hiccup at the beginning, Kapjian-Pitt made the most of her experience. Her roommate at the home stay was Haley Kirk from the sailing team and her teammate, Kate Kidd, was also in Florence, giving her the Stanford Athletics connection while she was there.
Along with Kidd, Kapjian-Pitt was able to get in a little rowing while in Florence. The two joined a rowing club and were able to take out a double out on to the Arno River, a river that dissects Florence.
“It is beautiful,” said Kapjian-Pitt. “The Ponte Vecchio, a really old stone bridge, crossed over it and we rowed underneath it. It was a surreal experience because we had learned about the bridge and historical parts of Florence.”
Along with being able to row a little, she was also able to use the facilities at the rowing club. Inside they had ergs and bikes as well as other fitness equipment.
“It was a fun community,” said Kapjian-Pitt. “There were a lot of older men who found it fascinating that us young American girls would be erging. It wasn’t the same intensity of workouts but I could erg for 20-40 minutes and spin for a little bit when I didn’t have class. It made me feel that I hadn’t lost all of my fitness.”
Some other things that Kapjian-Pitt enjoyed while in Florence included visiting museums, some local restaurants and traveling to other places in Italy and Europe. Her and her roommate, Kirk, made a goal to go to a museum every week.
“We wanted to continue that vacation feel so we went to different museums each week,” said Kapjian-Pitt.
She had two favorite restaurants. One was a little café she went to multiple times to do her homework and write papers. The other was a place she first went to with her mother, Elaine, and then went back multiple times.
“My mom took me to this hole in the wall place that had a modern feel where you were sitting behind a bar in a slender building,” said Kapjian-Pitt. “It was just a mom and her son working there and they didn’t have menus. It was just a chalkboard with the food they had that day. Their pasta was fantastic.”
When she had time to travel she took advantage of it. She went to Greece for a weekend. She went to Paris to visit her lightweight teammates MacKenzie Crist and Jordan Duval-Smith. She also met up with Duval-Smith in Amsterdam over Thanksgiving. Her parents came and visited and they went to Tuscany and Montepulciano in Italy. She was also able to visit Siena and Bologna in Italy as well as going with the class on the Bing trip to Sorrento, Naples and Pompeii.
Prior to her study abroad experience she had traveled to London, Paris, several Italian cities, Spain and Armenia through various trips with her family. Living abroad was a different experience for her that still seams surreal to her.
“It is hard to describe the feeling,” said Kapjian-Pitt. “It felt like I was suspended in time and space. You are abroad and doing your own thing but the life you are used to is still going on at Stanford and at home. It is hard to grasp because you are so far removed from it, but it was an incredible experience.”
Kapjian-Pitt’s recap of her study abroad experience is the third of six gostanford.com features that will chronicle the experiences of the six juniors on the lightweight rowing team who spent the fall quarter in the Bing Overseas Studies Program. Stay tuned to gostanford.com over the next two weeks for the remaining three stories.