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Study Abroad Student Report: Nikki Johnson

Ciao! My name is Nikki Johnson and I had the privilege of studying abroad in Florence, Italy during the Summer-mini term. There I studied human factors through a UT faculty-led Industrial Engineering course. Florence, Italy was the heart of the Renaissance giving it such a rich history that is seen in every part of the city. Florence has so much charm because every building has heartwarming character and cobblestones lining every street. Just imagine the cobbled streets with restaurant tables lining the sidewalks as you explore a city with so much character. Every other block has stunning cathedrals and basilicas that are absolutely breathtaking. All while the mountains surround the city with beautiful towns cascading down the towards the city.

In this course, we discovered ways to analyze how design and innovation have evolved over time while looking through a different cultural perspective. In the United States, efficiency and scale dominate the priorities of our designs. Throughout this course, we observed and discussed how Italian culture contrasts our values and instead focuses heavily on detail, aesthetics, and discovery. This analysis was carried out by visiting multiple museums, cathedrals, and artisans found in the city of Florence. We also studied numerous artists and artworks that fueled the Italian Renaissance and we discovered that these artists often used many engineering principles that laid the foundation for today’s technology.

Outside of this course, I had multiple opportunities to explore different parts of Italy. I visited many smaller cities near Florence such as Livorno, Pisa, Cinque Terre, and Modena. Each of these cities were different from each other in distinct ways. Some were more mountainous or beachy while others had rich history such as Modena being the birthplace of balsamic vinegar and Ferrari. Additionally, I was able to take a weekend trip down to Naples and Pompeii where I got to explore the ruins of Pompeii from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Throughout my journeys, I was able to immerse myself in the different cultures throughout Italy. Similar to the US, every city was different and each had its own culture and charm.

This trip was everything I wanted it to be and more and was truly a life-changing experience. Exploring different cultures is something I would recommend to anyone especially if you get the privilege to immerse yourself in a new culture. I now know the importance of building relationships with the people around you rather than always focusing on efficiency just by observing the way that Italians interact with one another.  I now have a greater appreciation for art because of the time and effort that gets poured into each and every piece. I also got to explore innovations such as the flying machine by Leonardo Davinci and the implementation of safe construction practices as used by Filippo Brunelleschi. All of this together will not only help me throughout my engineering career but will also push me to be a more well-rounded person.


Nikki Johnson posing with other students outside of Florence
people rowing a large gondola in a canal in Italy
car in a museum in Italy
town square in Florence, Italy