The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This past June, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy for a little over four weeks. One of the main reasons I chose to continue my education at Kent State was because of its amazing abroad program. I have always had a love for travel, and I’ve known for a long time that studying abroad was a must during my college career.
The benefits of studying abroad are almost endless. I got to witness so many different ways of life during my time in Italy. You also get to experience a lot of personal growth, during and after. There were highs, lows and everything in between.
A Whole New Life
When you study abroad, whether it’s for as little time as a month or as much as a semester, you get to form a new life for yourself during your stay. I think that was one of the most exciting parts for me. I didn’t have to worry about walking in a store and seeing someone from my hometown, I only would see locals and other students that I likely didn’t even know. I also had five roommates in a four bedroom apartment, and these were mostly girls that I had never met before. I got to experience a life that I had never known before just by rooming with complete strangers from Kent State.
My typical day consisted of waking up twenty minutes before my first class started, making the ten minute walk commute to the Kent State Florence building, attending two classes, either going out or snacking for dinner, and then sometimes homework but usually drinks or a club with friends. I didn’t go out at night as much as I would have liked during my time in Italy, as I was always so exhausted or trying to stay caught up with my classes that were condensed into a four week period. However, I still feel as if I experienced enough to make my time and money worthwhile.
I obviously stayed in Florence for the month, but during the weekends I got to travel to Siena, Pisa, and Rome. Every city is unique in its own way, so traveling during your stay abroad is usually well worth it. Italy’s cities were more unique than I could have ever imagined. The infrastructure and the history are amazing on their own, but then you also get to meet and observe so many different people with different lives and cultures. During my day trip to Pisa, I met an African woman that had so much to tell my group of friends about her life story. I also witnessed a lot of men wearing speedos on the beach, and when I say a lot I mean all of them. Skin. Tight. Speedos. Definitely not something you see very often in America.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Italy welcomed me with open arms, and I loved indulging myself into the country. But I’m not going to pretend it was all sunshine and rainbows the entire time. There was a lot of good, but there was some bad and ugly, too.
Being able to travel all over Florence and Italy in general was a big part of the good. With both of my classes, the class would take group field trips out of the classroom at least twice a week. I visited the Uffizi Gallery, and saw so much Florence artwork that my brain soon became overwhelmed. I later learned that a term to describe this feeling is Stendhal Syndrome. I walked through the Boboli Gardens attached to the Pitti Palace. These gardens were once inhabited by one of the richest families in Florence during the sixteenth century, the Medici family. One of my favorite places that I got to visit was a sustainable vineyard in the countryside of Tuscany. There was, yet again, so much rich history and beautiful sights. I did a wine tasting and tour of the big farmhouse and gorgeous vineyard.
The bad mostly came up during after school hours. You know, when my friends and I thought it was smart to go bar hopping through streets that we were 100% not familiar with. And when we decided to stop at a hole-in-the-wall bar, only to meet a few older men that were maybe a little too friendly. But, hey, they were buying us drinks, so was it really that big of a deal? And then there was that one time that I lost my punch card in one of the most popular clubs in Florence and didn’t have enough money to pay my way out. That one sobered me up real quick. Nonetheless, I did survive, and my friends did too! We walked home together, barely making it over the bus tracks without a tumble. But we made it, and now I have a lot of amazing memories to look back on, and write about!
Ugly cries, ugly sweat, ugly food. I can’t even try to count how many times I cried during my stay abroad, because I would probably come up with a number way lower than what it actually was. I got sad, I missed my boyfriend, my family, my life back home. And I was hard on myself, constantly demanding that I take advantage of my time in Italy and stop being a crybaby. But that only made it worse. It was so hot in Florence, with very high temperatures and very little greenery. No air conditioners, either. Any grass you saw was already brown and dried up. I often felt as if I couldn’t breathe the same way that I do here in Ohio. I was always sweaty and my hair was always poofy. I slept with a cold rag laid on my forehead or stretched across my stomach most nights. We opened our windows at night, but that only resulted in a half a temperature drop and being eaten alive by mosquitoes. There were also many instances that the language barrier between myself and the local Italians was frustrating. It was never their fault, and it really wasn’t mine either, it was just something that was hard to adapt to. There were a few times that I thought I knew what I ordered off of a menu, but I received something totally different to eat. This could have been me misunderstanding the menu, or the waiter misunderstanding me. Regardless of what happened, I just had to deal with it.
Don’t let any of the bad or ugly deter you from studying abroad. I would do it all over again if I could. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I enriched myself in so many different ways, both academically and personally. I hope I have an opportunity to go back to Italy sometime in the future.