Last year, at this time, I was strolling around the Christmas markets finding authentic Italian presents for my family in the beautiful city of Firenze, Italia. I had just spent three and a half months immersing myself in a brand new culture, experiencing everything that I had once learned about back in America and most importantly, finding myself and finding who and what I wanted to be. Leaving the community that you’ve known for years is important for growing up and if that’s not enough reason, here are seven to get you going on that study abroad application.
First and foremost, food is obviously one of the bigger motivators for going abroad. You will never experience the freshness that you’d experience in Italy. The food is so fresh that it forces you to go grocery shopping every day. It doesn’t last in the fridge for more than two days. Yeah, you might get overwhelmed by the angry Italian woman who’s cooking a seven course meal for her family in an hour and keeps pushing you with her cart in the line, but it’s totally worth it. The fresh baked bread and homemade pasta is unforgettable, even when you cook it.
Need I say more? No matter what time of the day or how many times a day, Italians love their gelato and it’s for good reason. It’s cheap and there are so many varieties that you can never get enough. Important: calories don’t count abroad.
Being back at Fairfield, the farthest place I travel to now is from my home on the beach to The Grape. Not that I’m not a fan of that, but it doesn’t compare to when I used to spend my weekends traveling all over Europe. One of the greatest perks of Europe is their low-fare flights. Yes, in order to get to Amsterdam, you might have to take a train to Rome, then have a layover in Barcelona, but it only costs you 45 euros. Let’s be real, a layover in Barcelona is worth $45. PSA: When you do apply, schedule your classes for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. This was the best piece of advice I received before I went abroad as it allows you to have Friday and Monday morning for travel.
- City life
At Fairfield, sometimes it can feel that you’re a little stuck. Even if you have your car, getting from one destination to the next can be a tricky situation. When you’re living in Florence, everything is in walking distance. The restaurant you’re going to for dinner is right next to the bar that you’re going to and then if the line for the bathroom in the bar is too long, your apartment is just down the street.
- The people
Despite common belief, Italians don’t hate Americans and a lot of them want to help you get the best experience. My friends and I lived on the fourth floor of an apartment while an older Italian woman who spoke no English lived downstairs. One morning, we walked outside and this woman smiled at us and handed us a roll with a note in all Italian. She smiled and kissed and walked inside. As we decoded the note, we learned that she had just gone to church and she was blessing us on the start of Advent. Despite the language barrier, we were able to connect with her and it was one of our favorite experiences.
- The classroom experience
It can be hard to go to class, especially when you know all you can think about is that panini you’ll be having from Pino’s in an hour. Luckily, your professors know that you’re always thinking about something else, so they will do anything to make it as interesting as possible and being in one of the most historic cities in the world, it’s not a difficult task. One of the classes that I took was Chemistry in the Arts and every other class, we would go to one of the many churches and examine the types of techniques and paints used to create the beautiful masterpieces that lined the walls.
- Coffee shops
Americans do everything for convenience whether that be getting our work or getting our coffee. In Italy, Italians love to enjoy their coffee and you can find a coffee shop nearly anywhere. Whether you want to do your homework and catch up with your new Italian beau (just kidding), the coffee there is cheap and strong and it’s an experience that you will miss being back home.