Traveling has always been one of my biggest dreams, but I never thought it was going to be possible to do so while in college due to the fact that while I was at Binghamton I was majoring in biology and a pre-medical student. But with careful planning I went abroad to Rome, Italy for the winter break in 2017.
The program was held by Stony Brook University and lasted 2.5 weeks. I ended up taking 2 classes while abroad and I learned so much not only about the Italian culture, but the American and my own culture. The reason I chose to go to Italy is because it was important to me to learn about my roots and where I come from since my maternal great grandparents were from Italy. I also wanted to learn more about the Italian history and to go to Europe because I have never been in the continent. In addition, I wanted to look at the amazing architecture and try the delicious Italian dishes.
Before my study abroad program started, my friends and I decided to go to Spain for a week. Once in Italy, I compared the life in Spain with the life in Italy and I came to the conclusion that my biggest cultural shock was how different the life in Europe is compared to the United States. Coming from New York City, I am used to a fast paced and stressful life. In Europe, people are more laid back and they are not as stressed as New Yorkers are. The stores, restaurants and businesses close early and they do not open everyday. Europeans make sure to dedicate more time to their family and friends. Which is something that I really loved while over there and hope to do here.
While abroad we visited as a group the beautiful Colosseum, the Roman Forums, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican, the Spanish Steps and the famous Trevi Fountain. But I made it my task to go explore the actual city of Rome aside from the tourist places. My favorite part of the trip was interacting with the local Italians because after this experience, I have a better understanding of the country and culture. I saw the real streets of Rome and I tried the authentic Italian food and drinks such as cappuccinos, cannoli, pizza, pasta, and gelato just to mention a few. My biggest challenge was the language barrier. Sometimes it became difficult to communicate with the people since my program was only 2 weeks and we were not required to either had previously known the language or learn it there.
We visited other parts of Italy such as Pisa, Assisi, Florence, Pompeii, and Sorrento. All I can say is that the views were breathtaking and the amount of history and architecture in this beautiful country is worth seeing in person. Studying abroad was one of my most meaningful college experiences. Going abroad made me become more independent, confident and more open to different cultures. I made friends for life. I recommend everybody that has the chance to do so to go and explore a different country, culture, and language. It is definitely an opportunity of a lifetime! I cannot wait to go back, explore and create even more amazing memories…
Bertilia Tavarez, a Biological Sciences major, studied in Rome through SUNY Stony Brook during winter 2017.