Alumni Stories: Brent Barbano, Summer 2005

Brent Barbano returned to the Villa Rossa recently to show his mom where he spent such a memorable summer studying abroad. He recounted fond memories of developing black and white photos in a darkroom for class, going on site visits with “Jay Zee” (art history professor Jane Zaloga), and hanging out a lot in Piazza Savonarola in front of the school with his friends. Brent studied at the Syracuse film school so he couldn’t come for a regular semester, and he has since become a successful director of photography.

What was it like to be back in Florence after 18 years?

It was very surreal. I have so many fond memories around the city and Villa Rossa’s neighborhood. So it was exciting to see that not much has changed. It’s just as beautiful and charming as I remembered!

How did the city and the school compare to when you studied here?

The city is definitely more crowded than I remembered but that’s to be expected. The school is even better! When I studied at Villa Rossa, they were renovating the expansion to the grounds. So it was really fulfilling to see how beautiful and larger the entire campus is now!

How did the experience affect your life and/or career path?

Studying abroad with Syracuse in Florence definitely opened my eyes to traveling internationally. At the time, it was my first trip overseas, so it was a big opportunity of growth for me. Since then, I’ve traveled to over 30 countries and 46 states, and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

What was particularly memorable about your time studying abroad?

This is certainly the hardest question to answer. I created so many memories and made lifelong friends during my short summer semester (RIP Bebop*). I would have to say it’s either taking class tours in museums all over Florence and Italy, learning about classic Renaissance art and architecture. Or it would have to be all of the weekend trips my friends and I took through Italy, some locations included Naples, Capri, Sorrento, Verona, Elba, Cinque Terre, etc…

Any advice for present or future students?

Get out of your comfort zone, be inquisitive, take walks and explore, be polite, learn the language, order the weird thing on the menu, and don’t look back. It sounds corny and fairly obvious to say, but I can’t stress it enough. Seize the day and take advantage of this incredible opportunity most people won’t have in their lifetime. Syracuse did an incredible job with their program and you’re so lucky to be a part of it. SU really has one of if not the best abroad program in the country!

Plan some time to travel around Italy (and even Europe), during and after your semester too. Don’t take school (sorry professors) too seriously. Work hard, of course, but try and prioritize time to learn about the Italian culture, food, arts, customs, and general way of life. Living in any foreign country can be such an enriching experience, and it’d be a shame if you flew all this way to just study, party, sleep and repeat. You’ll regret it. Oh, and try not to order any food near the Duomo or any touristy area for that matter. Find out where the locals go and eat there.

* A bar with live music that was popular with study abroad students and closed in 2014.