This past summer, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy at the Lorenzo de Medici International Institute. I chose this program for a number of reasons: I had started looking into this program a year ago with my best friend, and when it didn’t work out, I kept it in the back of my mind as an option for the future.
When I officially decided to study abroad, I saw the program had become a Binghamton program and had a friend on it who really enjoyed it so I decided to do it. Before I studied abroad, I had no idea what to expect from the experience. I thought what most people thought: that it would be a life-changing experience and give me global perspectives and insights I otherwise wouldn’t have had. I lucked out, because that’s exactly what my experience was, and so much more. I learned so much about Italy, its people, its culture and its lifestyle.
The most surprising part about my study abroad experience was how quickly Florence became a second home. I felt like a tourist for the first weekend, and suddenly I felt like I lived there. Feeling like a resident in the city I lived in made my experience there that much more meaningful. The experience did not come without challenges, though. Living in a city where English was not the primary language was difficult, and learning to navigate the city was difficult and at times frustrating. I could go on and on about all of the amazing things I got out of my study abroad experience.
The most rewarding parts of my month abroad were actually the little things: walking into the café down the street from my apartment and order a cappuccino and a croissant every morning helped me establish a relationship with the owner. The smile that spread across his face when I walked in every morning gave me indescribable joy. I also grew a lot as a person over the course of my month abroad. I became more comfortable doing things independent of others, and sometimes preferred to do it. Whether it was taking a museum tour alone or booking a trip down to the Amalfi Coast, the experiences I had on my own were some of the most memorable parts of my trip.
I only have positive things to say about my study abroad experience, and would highly encourage other students to partake in the experience. It isn’t just about traveling; it’s much bigger than that. First of all, it’s a learning experience. You don’t just learn in the classroom – you learn in your everyday interactions and in your conversations with other students, faculty and locals. Second, it’s a growing experience. You learn a lot about yourself and about other people when you go abroad. You start to see people differently, to understand them and their way of life in a way you can’t from doing a quick Google search.
There’s no way to describe having lasagna in a vineyard in Tuscany with someone traveling in New Zealand or sharing a Panini outside of a famous museum with a visiting teacher from Korea. Where else could I have taken a class field trip to a palace built in the 15th century or walked through the gardens of the first King of Italy? Although I’m not sure of the next time I’ll get to have an experience like this, I can definitely say that it has changed my life for the better. I could not be more grateful!
Rachel Blaifeder, one of the current Education Abroad Student Ambassadors, who studied abroad in Italy in summer 2016