A Photographer Abroad

This semester, two CCI students will be sharing their experiences studying abroad in Florence, Italy. Follow them on their journey as they deal with culture shock, language barriers, and a total lifestyle change.

By Rachel Rankin, ’17

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Flying half way across the world to live away from everyone I know has been physically and emotionally challenging. I miss my family and fiancé, but I wouldn’t change making this decision for anything. I have experienced the most amazing events in the few short weeks I have lived here. From photographing male models in Florence for Pitti Uomo, finding my way into a VIP Reebok Men’s Fashion Exhibition and conversing with the locals, I would say this has been a rewarding experience so far. Florence provides a large variety for photographers because there are so many interesting subjects and places.

As for adjusting to a new culture, things can be rather difficult at times. The language barrier, in my opinion, is the hardest adjustment. There are so many people who speak multiple languages and it can be confusing starting a conversation. I am learning Italian (slowly!), but it is getting slightly easier as the days pass.

I find myself feeling the most anxious when I am ordering food at a café or restaurant. Sometimes I do not go somewhere to eat because I am so confused on how to order. I wish I had had the chance to learn simple phrases before coming here to live. I have completely felt embarrassed in many situations, but this is all a learning experience. Although the culture and people are different and can be difficult, I find myself loving the aesthetic of this city more everyday. Everything (compared to my hometown) is unique and not to mention incredibly beautiful.

My first week abroad involved photographing male models in Florence for the Pitti Uomo. Pitti Uomo attracts men from around the world for fashion shows and exhibitions. There were hundreds of men dressed incredibly fashionable, which was hard to resist as a photographer.

I ended up doing street photography with a few models, which ultimately ended in Instagram publicity and entering a VIP Reebok Men’s Fashion Exhibition. The experience was unforgettable and definitely set the tone high for the remaining of the semester. Portrait photography is my absolute favorite and I am hoping to make more connections while abroad.

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Now that I am fully submerged in Italian culture and finding my way around the city of Florence, I am finally starting to attend weekend trips in other cities. My first trip involved being really touristy at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Pisa was very similar to Florence, but much more quiet and still. Pisa had me at ease because it was a slow-paced city with not much to do. In addition, I went to Prato with my photography class. Prato is a small town twenty minutes outside of Florence.

This town was cute and dainty with little to see. I feel as if these are the best cities to find as a photographer because the locals are always nice and open for conversations. I have taken multiple portraits of people who live in Florence and surrounding cities. The portraiture opportunities in Italy have been abundant and amazing. I am often finding great faces and personalities to photograph.


Photographed in  Pisa, Italy


Photographed in Florence, Italy

Photography has always been a passion of mine, but photography while traveling has changed my attitude and outlook on my future. I am more motivated now than ever to create photographs that stand out against the rest. This experience has already changed me and I feel as if I am becoming a better version of myself. Traveling is an entire education within itself.




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