Major(s): Food Marketing
Abroad Program: Fairfield University, Florence University of the Arts
Where: Florence, Italy
When: Spring 2013
What did you learn to love about the culture(s)?
I’m from outside of New York City, so I’m used to a very fast paced environment. The biggest thing I needed to learn to love about the Italian culture was that everything and everyone was a lot more slow moving than I was used to. In America, everything is done with such great speed; even eating in a restaurant is sometimes rushed. In Italy, you practically needed to hunt your waiter down to get the check. They didn’t want you to leave; they want you to savor your meal and conversation. At first, it was annoying because I wasn’t used to it. As weeks passed, I learned to accept it, and I even liked it. Italians like to enjoy themselves and live their lives how they want too. They close their shops in the middle of the day so they can relax. I liked not being rushed. Nothing had a sense of urgency. It is a much more carefree lifestyle that I wish Americans would adapt.
What was one challenge you faced? How did you deal with this challenge?
One challenge I faced while abroad was the fact that I only went with one other person I knew from SJU. I knew that going into the experience, I was really going to need to put myself out there and make friends. It was like freshman year of college all over again! It was a rough first two weeks. My luggage got lost; I was jetlagged, and feeling lonely being in a foreign country and knowing only one person. Once classes began and I became more acclimated within the city, things got better. My first friends were people within my building and that grew larger as the weeks passed. We began traveling together and experiencing all that Florence had to offer together and became very close. I still talk to my “abroad friends” daily, and I know that I’ll be friends with them for a long time.
How has this experience changed you?
I became a lot more independent during my semester abroad. I thought I became independent when I moved to college, but there is truly nothing like being in another country pretty much alone. I also realized that the world is a huge and magnificent place, and the drama and huge problems we have at home are pretty insignificant in the big scheme of things. I gained a perspective on life that I don’t think I ever would have if I didn’t study abroad. I also think I’m much more willing to talk to new people. I’m generally a very talkative person, but that has only increased during my semester abroad. I spoke to anyone and everyone in my classes, in the airports when I traveled, even on the street. I met people from across the country and who have such different lives from me, and it was really interesting. I learned out to put myself out there and just be myself, which I think is really important.