Exploring Valencia: A Conversation with Flora Domitrovic about her Study Abroad Experience
Studying abroad is an adventure that transcends the classroom, offering students an opportunity to immerse themselves in new cultures, languages, and experiences. In this article, we follow Flora Domitrovic, a second-year FSU student, who studied abroad in Valencia, Spain, last summer. Flora grew up in Houston, Texas, and moved to Florida before her senior year of high school. She is majoring in History and is also a part of the FSU Pathways program in Geographic Information Science. Her minor is in Urban Planning.
Flora chose to study abroad with FSU International Programs after attending a study abroad fair, “It sounded like a cool opportunity.” She hoped to go somewhere that did not feel like the U.S. As Flora wanted to learn Spanish, FSU’s campus in Valencia was the best option. Considering that her minor is in Urban Planning, Valencia as a big city was an added draw. Flora was part of the Editing, Writing, and Media program the English department offers in the summer in Valencia. Flora chose EWM because “I had never really been a writer, but since coming to college I realized I liked writing.” Her coursework in Valencia ranged from the history of print and illustrated manuscripts to the contemporary production and circulation of digital texts.
For EWM, Flora had to research and write an article for publication. She chose to focus on the history of Valencia’s old street signs because she was fascinated by their beauty and craftsmanship. She wanted to understand their stories. Known for their intricate ceramic designs, these signs can be found in the historic district, creating a visually captivating atmosphere. It just so happened that someone had a ceramics workshop right behind FSU’s Valencia campus.
Flora was fascinated by these street signs, especially those crafted by the Gimeno family, whose history dates back to the 1920s. In her article, Flora explored the history, craftsmanship, and personal connections between different generations of sign makers. From deciphering signatures to interviewing members of the Gimeno family, she followed the artistic development of Valencia’s sign makers through ceramic signs and personal narratives.
One of the challenges Flora faced was the language barrier, having only basic Spanish skills when she arrived. Despite this, she emphasizes the importance of branching out socially and making connections within the study abroad program and with local inhabitants. She was able to connect with locals through people she met and people assisting her in her program. Flora told us “FSU has an amazing location.” For others considering the program Flora says, “I wouldn’t let not knowing Spanish hold you back because you can still have a great time and learn a lot once you get there.”
Some of Flora’s favorite outings were participating in an impromptu beach festival, exploring the historic district, and traveling to Morocco and Paris. Her work on the making of the ceramic street signs had her traversing Valencia’s historic district. When talking about the beach festival, Flora highlights the fun she had. “We would just run onto the beach at midnight, I don’t know why, we just did.” On her trip to Morocco, Flora was most impressed by the vastness of the Sahara Desert. In Paris, the sunset in front of the Eiffel Tower stood out. All in all, Flora made good use of her six weeks in Spain.
Looking ahead, Flora plans to focus on urban planning after undergrad. Her study abroad experience has influenced her aspirations, and she is considering pursuing a master's degree. She is also considering returning to Valencia as a program assistant, a role that requires fluency in Spanish. Program assistants facilitate the smooth running of the program and serve as positive role models to all students. She tells us, “I want to help others to explore new places – like I did.” She understands that becoming a program assistant is a lofty goal because she is not yet fluent in Spanish but is willing to keep learning to achieve it.