As the semester draws to a close, I have been reflecting on the many opportunities and experiences that studying abroad has provided me, and I truly believe it has been one of the most influential times in my life. To give a bit of background about myself, I am a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major at the University of South Carolina, pursuing a career in medical and psychological research. Aside from my educational background, I am passionate about traveling, learning languages, fashion, and cooking. Throughout my childhood, my mother had told me that one of her greatest regrets in life was not studying abroad. At the time, she simply was overwhelmed by the idea of dropping everything at her undergraduate university and moving to a new country where she knew no one. Looking back, she expressed her sorrow at holding herself back from the experience. Hearing the way she talked about studying abroad, I grew up knowing that I had to try it. However, when the time came to plan out my travels, I had some hesitation. I was extremely comfortable at the University of South Carolina, with both a solid social group and meaningful extracurricular involvement. I strongly considered abandoning my dreams because I worried it would be too difficult to adjust abroad. Thankfully, I pushed those doubts aside, and I am extremely glad that I did.
Living in Florence for the past four months has provided me with immense cultural knowledge, within Italy and throughout Europe. I have greatly improved my Italian language skills as well as my ability to converse with individuals in other languages. I also developed a stronger sense of independence and self-sufficiency. I became able to advocate for myself in new situations such as when a train strike took place in Milan, and I was responsible for refunding my ticket and finding a way home. I also learned how to handle situations such as my roommate’s dental emergency where I was able to take charge in helping her to schedule a treatment. I also have developed a strengthened ability to express myself through fashion. As a fashion lover, studying in Italy was always my dream. Living in Florence has helped me to scour markets, haggle with vendors, and find unique pieces to style. I feel proud of my fashion journey, and I get excited to express myself through makeup and clothing each day. Additionally, my courses at Florence University of the Arts have provided me with cultural knowledge, major-specific knowledge, and general life skills. Most notably, I took a course about Italian food, culture, and society as well as a course about drug abuse and behavior addiction. My Italian cultural class helped me immensely in my adjustment to the new country and helped me to meet some of my best friends. I learned a lot about the various regions of Italy and their regional dishes. My course about drug abuse and behavioral addiction helped me to develop a passion for addiction research which I hope to pursue more in-depth in the future. Overall, I feel as if I have experienced a lifetime of growth in four short months!
One of my favorite parts of my time studying abroad was my travels abroad. I agree with the common saying that Florence is a great home base for a study abroad student. Within Italy, I was able to visit many areas including Rome, Venice, Bologna, Genoa, Rapallo, San Gimignano, Lake Como, Cinque Terre, Perugia, and Arezzo. All of these locations were relatively close by, making it easy to travel during the day and come back to Florence at night. Throughout Europe, I was able to visit Iceland, England, Paris, Marseille, Barcelona, and Brussels. I really enjoyed trying the regional dishes of each place I went, with my favorites being the waffles in Brussels and the street crepes in Paris! For each place that I went, I bought a postcard, and when I return home, I intend to make a huge wall depicting all of my travels. I cannot believe that the semester is already over, but I truly felt that it has been one of the most influential experiences in my life. I am so thankful I put aside my nerves and decided to study abroad. Between the SAI experiences, my courses, my travels, and experiencing Florence, this semester has been one that I will never forget!
Written by: Josie, Fall 2022 Florence student from University of South Carolina