By Erin Renslow
Richmond University in Florence
Over the past three months, I have been able to volunteer at the Duomo in Florence as a tour guide. This has by far been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I am so happy I chose to put myself out there and volunteer. Something special happens when you chose not to just live in a city, but fully immerse yourself in it and give your time to make it even better. I’ve heard from many locals that giving your time in Italy is seen as a precious thing and is viewed very highly. Even though we are students that are here for just a short amount of time, they receive us with open arms and let us join them as if we were one of their own. Not volunteering is one of the biggest regrets I hear other students say over and over again. This is something everyone should attempt to do because you won’t regret it if you choose to volunteer but there is a big chance that you will regret not choosing to volunteer.
One of my favorite memories from being a tour guide was when I started a tour with a family of three around the Duomo. I was recounting stories about the people being honored throughout the cathedral and at every stop we made, more and more people joined the tour. My favorite part of the tour is talking about Brunelleschi’s Dome so I stopped my group underneath and was recounting the story of the egg contest. As I was getting to the part about Brunelleschi’s surprise win, 20 more people had joined my tour and were fully engaged, eager to learn more about this amazing cathedral and its architects. We finished the tour a couple minutes later and all of them one by one came up to me and thanked me for sharing the history of this landmark with them for free. Some asked me why I did it and my answer was simple. It makes me happy to give back to the people and city where I live. I volunteered in my home town growing up and I volunteer at university when I’m there. Right now, Florence is my home so this is my contribution to my city!
Thank you Richmond for this incredible opportunity! I cannot thank you enough for organizing this incredible volunteer program and placing us where we wanted to be! I will never forget this amazing experience!