Each Challenge Turned Into a New Learning Opportunity!

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I studied abroad at the Lorenzo de Medici Institute in Florence, Italy during the Spring 2016 semester.

I chose this program because I had always wanted to visit Italy; it’s where my family originates from and I knew from pictures and stories that it was a beautiful place. After exploring the features of the program, I decided it was the best fit for me. I had hardly been outside of the US before going abroad, so I really didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous about being away from my family and friends for nearly 4 months, but I knew people that had gone abroad before and had nothing but positive things to say about the experience.

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There were definitely a few surprises while abroad; the biggest one was the extent to which I surprised myself. I was living in an apartment with 6 other girls (American students from other SUNY schools) and we had to do everything for ourselves. After living in a dorm with a meal plan for the past two years and living at home for my entire life before that, the idea of going grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and simply living on my own was a scary thought; the fact that it was in a foreign country made it 10 times more intimidating. I’d like to think that I handled this challenge really well; I learned how to make some amazing meals, how to budget for food and personal expenses, and most importantly, how to be independent in a country where English is not the primary language.

The lack of English-speaking natives was probably the most difficult part of my experience. I had never taken Italian before and was only taking an intro-level course during the semester. Before going abroad, people had told me things like “everyone speaks English there” or “Italian is easy to understand” (neither of which are true). There were many situations where the language barrier posed an issue, whether it was at the grocery store, a restaurant, or on the street, but thankfully each challenge resulted in a new learning opportunity.

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Studying abroad allowed me to explore a whole new side of myself and experience a multitude of new things. I had the opportunity to travel all throughout Italy as well as to 7 other European countries; this was something I never thought I’d be able to do. I got to swim in the clear blue waters of Santorini, Greece, watch the Eiffel Tower light up at night, and wander through the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum and Colosseum. It is beyond rewarding to experience things that most people only dream about.

I would 100% encourage all students to study abroad, whether it’s a semester-long program or a short-term program, just getting out into the world is an important experience that everyone should have. Going abroad, having the opportunity to become an Ambassador, and pursuing the Global Studies minor have enhanced my experience so much and have only changed my life for the better. There’s so much to see in the world and so many cultures to be immersed in; you’re guaranteed to be different because of it.

Jessica D’Elia, an Integrative Neuroscience major and a current education abroad ambassador, who studied abroad in Italy in Spring 2016

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