Why did you choose this program? I chose this program because it satisfied requirements for my major program and allowed me to study in beautiful Italy for six weeks. Additionally, the course description of Renaissance Florence helped get me excited about this program.
Describe your favorite class abroad. During my time abroad I took two classes: Drawing and Renaissance Florence. Of the two, Renaissance Florence was my favorite. My Renaissance Florence class did not meet in a classroom; Florence was our classroom. Each day we would visit a new museum or a new church where our professor would show us and explain the intended meaning of works of art. I saw so much of the history of this city I called home for 6 weeks and that was the point of the class. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to visit so many famous museums and churches during this class.
What was the housing like on your study abroad program? My program placed me and my fellow classmates in a local hotel minutes from the world-famous il Duomo di Firenze. The hotel served dinner every weeknight and had access to wireless internet and air conditioning. The manager of the hotel, Ermenio, was a delight to be around and made the hotel seem like home.
What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students? The best advice I can give to study abroad students is to go with your eyes wide open. Studying abroad is a unique experience where you'll struggle and thrive within a different culture, all in the same day. It's good to remember that every experience will help you learn and you won't be a tourist forever; you'll figure it out. Also, be open to the culture. Be willing to learn the language and interact with locals because it is so rewarding, and it's what you'll remember most.
What’s your best memory from your time abroad? My best memory from studying abroad was when I went to Rome for a weekend. My friends and I got lost for two hours, were exhausted for two days, but still managed to have a great time. The best part though, was when we came back and got off the train in Florence and it was like we were home. We felt peaceful, content, and just happy to be back in a place that had truly become our home away from home. I never expected that to happen while studying abroad, but Florence will forever be my home away from home.
What was your biggest surprise about the location, culture or other aspects of your program? Initially, I was surprised to drive in to Florence and see that part of it is a normal, metropolitan city. It has normal apartment buildings, streets, and fitness buildings. But then you slowly make your way to the center of Florence, to the oldest part of the city, and that is where the cobblestone, historical architecture, and essence of historical Florence lives.
Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock. When coming back from Florence, I had a mix-up in the Florence Airport. There was a slight issue with my bags, but I found that I had no way of knowing what to do in a foreign country. I struggled my way through, eventually got on my plane, and waited to be back in the United States. When I arrived in Atlanta, I was shocked with the number of people waiting to help me and being able to understand the conversations around me. It felt as if I'd been transported to a different world. The differences between my experiences in a foreign and American airport shocked me.
“If I could do it over, I would…” If I could do it over, I would place a bigger emphasis on learning the language. I know that I read beforehand the importance of being able to communicate with locals, but I completely underestimated it. Knowing the language would have made ordering food and drink and, simply, life easier while studying abroad.
What was your greatest challenge? My greatest challenge while studying abroad was not knowing the language. I never realized how much I'm spoiled here in the United States by knowing the language and having no qualms with such simple things. I would get nervous every time I had to order food or drink somewhere; I was never sure if they would be able to understand what I was trying to communicate.
Discuss: “Going abroad vs. staying on campus.” In a case of debate between going abroad and staying on campus, going abroad wins every time. Going abroad gives you everything you could do on campus plus more. There is no better time to study or go abroad then when you're in college. It is worth the cost and gives you so many moments and memories that you'll cherish forever. Additionally, there are scholarships and grants to help you study abroad if that is your dream. If you can do both, go abroad and study on campus, do both. But be open to going abroad and jumping into a new culture and experience.
How did you find scholarships for study abroad? The School of Informatics and Computing gave scholarships to study abroad to its direct admit students. Additionally, my older siblings studied abroad and were also aware of the HIEP funding.
Would you recommend other students pursue any specific scholarship opportunities? I would definitely apply for a Hutton International Experience Program grant. They're so willing to give you what you need to study abroad.