“I left Italy with a newfound version of myself that I loved, and I couldn’t wait to get home and be exactly who I wanted.”

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I studied at Lorenzo de Medici in Florence, Italy. I chose to go to Italy because my family is from southern Italy, and I speak the language. Prior to studying abroad, I had always wanted to travel the world and go any and everywhere I could. I thought I would get to Europe and thrive, fall in love with the continent, and never want to leave… and I did, but not at first.Culture shock got to me, and I felt really alone and miserable the first few days. I was home sick, confused about Florentine culture, and everybody spoke English which meant my Italian was rarely utilized. Being someone who had a strong desire to travel, I never thought that culture shock would affect me. What helped me get through it were my roommates. We were all from different parts of the US and just wanted to experience as much as we could in our temporary home. I was paired with five other girls, none of which were from New York. They came from Ohio, Illinois, Kansas, and Texas. It was easy to see how different we were, how our cultural upbringing differed, and the difference in interests we had. We all had different music taste (NONE of them had never heard of A Boogie… a New York rapper/artist), different ideas of fun, and different life experiences. Our one common interest was Italy.

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After about five days of being there, I finally started to feel like myself and it hit me: I was really in Italy. I boarded the plane to Europe not really knowing who I was, and not being completely comfortable with the person I was becoming. I left Italy with a newfound version of myself that I loved, and I couldn’t wait to get home and be exactly who I wanted. Studying abroad was life-changing. You get a different experience studying abroad compared to vacationing somewhere because when you study abroad, you’re living like a local. There were massive amounts of tourists in Florence, and it was easy to see that they weren’t getting an authentic Italian experience but rather the stereotypical experience of what foreigners think of when they think of Italy. My professor was very helpful in navigating and pinpointing where I should go to get an authentic experience. From exploring tiny neighborhoods outside the city center, to visiting the secret bakery (which is only open from midnight to 4AM, I might add) that all the Florentines flock to after a night out, I tried my best to stray away from the mindset of a tourist to do what most foreigners wouldn’t.

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My professor was also very good with the amount of work she assigned. I took a literature course about the Italian Grand Tour, which discusses Italian history through the eyes of foreign travelers, much like myself. All of our homework, tests, presentations, and essays were fairly easy to get through. It helped that we had in-depth class discussions about everything we were doing and learning. She knew and understood that we were all American’s trying to see as much of her beautiful country as possible in a limited amount of time. She took us on field trips to museums, art exhibits, and monuments to give us time to see things that we might miss otherwise.

My favorite part about my study abroad experience wasn’t the food, it wasn’t the landscape or the scenery; it was the people. I made so many memories with so many people from different walks of life. While the food was phenomenal, the country was beautiful, it wouldn’t have been what it was without the friends I made.

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November 8: Nikki Caruso, a Human Development major, studied on the Lorenzo de Medici program in Florence, Italy during summer 2017.

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