ACCENT Florence: This is What Dreams are Made of

This week’s post comes from Berry College student Jessica Hayhurst, who embarked on a short-term Journalism program in Florence. Jessica describes how her journalistic fieldwork shaped her understanding of the city.

When I was a senior in high school, the number one question I asked at every college tour was, “What kind of study abroad opportunities do you have?”

Growing up in a small town in North Georgia, I had always dreamed of traveling the world, and Italy was at the top of my list. Now, by God’s grace, I’ve taken the first step to making that dream come true.

One perk of attending a small school is knowing your professors really well. So, back in April of 2016, when a professor who knew I was interested in study abroad told me about a trip to Florence where I could study and practice real journalism, I was all over it.

Fast forward to today, and I’ve just returned from a month in Italy that has truly changed my life. I got a taste of what it’s like to live in the heart of Florence, while getting real field experience as a journalist, and building lasting memories with my newfound friends. Eating authentic Italian food, visiting famous historical landmarks like the Duomo, and eating gelato at sunset on the Ponte Vecchio were all fabulous experiences, but the real highlight of this trip was the story I got to uncover.During my study abroad experience, I worked with my professors and classmates to read the spaces of Florence as a text that defines and impacts the people and culture of Florence. The spaces I “read” were the sacred spaces of Florence. Specifically, I sought out how these world renowned cathedrals, synagogues, and other sacred spaces functioned as active places of worship and popular tourist attractions at the same time. I interviewed various priests, a rabbi, and an architect to discover how sacred spaces balance these two conflicting functions. I came out of it with some really cool insight about the sacred spaces of Florence and a renewed awe for their religious nature. I quickly became very passionate about this story and was able to produce a print story with an interactive map that I hope to have published when I return to classes back home this fall.

To recap:

  • I fulfilled my goal to travel to Italy (hopefully just the beginning of my traveling experiences)
  • I got to talk to local Florentines about a story I was passionate about writing
  • I earned two class credits while doing it
  • I made lifelong friends and memories in a beautiful city

If this isn’t what dreams are made of, I don’t know what is.~Jessica Hayhurst, Berry College

Did this post inspire you to uncover a story of your own in Florence? Research your study abroad options at