Julia Meek and a friend hike in northern Italy
Overseas Study Program
Julia's Majors: Journalism, Italian Studies
Year/ Term Abroad: Academic Year 2010-2011
Reason You Chose this Program: I came across the full immersion program while flipping through the binders and decided to challenge myself!
Favorite Classes: Medieval Literature (The professor was amazing)
Describe the Housing Situation: Part of my program required that we find our own housing. I pulled countless flyers, saw about 30 apartments and finally chose one based on a conversation about measuring cups. I lived with 4 Italians, 3 men, one woman.
Advice to Future Study Abroad Participants: Dive in head first. Don’t choose a place because all of your friends are doing that program. I returned to the US with some of the best friends and experiences I have ever had because I was out of my comfort zone.
Best Memory: Hosting Thanksgiving at my apartment for 9 Italians. They went crazy when I introduced stuffing. They asked me to make it time and time again after the initial feast.
Biggest Surprise: I was pleasantly surprised on how helpful other Italian students were when it came to classes. They were more than willing to help out when I didn’t quite understand something going on. I was also surprised by how superstitious the Italians were. Wearing a scarf would make you feel better, no matter the illness. Going outside with wet hair, even on an 75 degree day is absurd, etc!
Experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock: Walking into an American grocery store after shopping in the tiny Italian markets was mind-boggling. Because the refrigerators in Italy were so small and the food so fresh it was daily routine to stop at the store on the way home from class to get the supplies for dinner that night.
What I wish I knew before I left: I wish I would have know, despite all the things that say Italians do not wear flip flops, that it is okay to wear flip flops. No matter how ‘Italianized’ I became and dressed, it was still clear that I was an American. Be you.
Greatest Challenge: My greatest challenge was overcoming the fear to speak in Italian in large groups of people. Eventually I was able to conquer the fear, but it took a while to go beyond sitting and listening to becoming a part of the conversation.
Going abroad versus staying on campus, discuss: Yes, there were things at IU that I was sad to miss during my year abroad, but the experiences I had were irreplaceable. The Little 500 happens every year, but getting the opportunity to celebrate Carnival in Venice wearing a full costume and mask was something that I couldn’t and probably never would have experienced otherwise.