Center for International Programs - Study Abroad

Student Profile: Melissa Ehrlichman - Fairfield University in Florence, Italy



Major(s): Psychology

Minor(s): Italian, Autism Studies

Abroad Program: Fairfield University in Florence

Where: Florence, Italy

When (Semester & Year): Spring 2013

Favorite Course: Conversational Italian

Getting to know the city of Florence and Italy.

Best Excursion: Island hopping in Greece!

Favorite Dish: Blueberry steak or Gnocchi

Least Favorite Dish: I didn’t have one… It’s Italy!

Next Destination: Back to Florence. I would also love to visit Austria.

What did you learn to love about the culture(s)?

Living in a foreign country for an extended period of time and traveling around Europe allows you to learn the similarities and differences of cultures. For example, each country has a unique way to greet a new person, specific meal etiquette and proper decorum for holy or historical artifacts. I found that each country possessed great pride in their history and customs; I loved learning this information while abroad. Florence is a smaller city, but it is rich with incredible amounts of art. You could tell that many of the Italians had tremendous love for their history by the way they explained each piece of artwork and the respective Italian artists who created the pieces.

Another aspect I enjoyed about the Italian and European lifestyle is the slower paced life. I feel that many Europeans embrace life by living in the moment, whether it is strolling through the streets to enjoy the architecture of the buildings they pass or leisurely eating a meal with family and friends. This mindset motivated me to see and do everything I could while in Italy and to fully appreciate my time there.

Describe your best travel experience.

Traveling around Greece for spring break! A group of friends and I decided to plan our week off traveling around this beautiful country. We visited Athens, Paros, Naxos and Santorini! In Athens, we explored the Parthenon and other important sites that highlighted the great ancient history of Greece. We also visited the small island of Paros where we rode horses in the ocean and around the island. Throughout the week, we met the island locals who were friendly and eager to teach us about their culture. The family that owned the apartment we stayed at invited us to have an authentic Greek meal and even taught us a few Greek phrases.

How have you used the language since you returned from your study abroad experience? How do you plan to use it in the future?

My Italian relatives came to visit America a month after I came back from Florence. These relatives had never been to America and did not speak any English. I acted as their guide as we toured Philadelphia, NYC and D.C. Although I had taken Italian prior to my study abroad experience, it was not until I lived in Florence that I was able to improve and apply my skills outside of the classroom. It was great being able to speak to my relatives and better understand them! I hope to become fluent in Italian so that I can travel back to Florence and teach English to elementary-age students.