Studying abroad in Florence during the Fall of 2018 was the best four months of my life! Traveling the world has and always will be one of my biggest dreams. To begin fulfilling this dream in an incredible city like Florence is more than I could have ever hoped for from the food and culture to the architecture and quality of life, everything was terrific.
What travel tips would you give someone studying abroad?
To anyone who will soon be studying abroad or who currently is, I would say to slow down, take it all in, seize every opportunity you can, and truly enjoy each one of those experiences. It goes by in the blink of an eye, but leaves you with the experiences and memories of a lifetime. There are two major lessons I learned studying abroad that I am so grateful for and will always keep in mind no matter what I’m doing or where I am. The first piece of advice I received was from one of my Italian professors. During the very first class I had with her, she said: “always remember to look up.” Her words reminded me of how easy it can be to get stuck in our heads looking towards our feet when we’re too focused on constantly moving. When we allow ourselves to slow down and remember to look up every once and a while, there are so many things we notice that have always been there, but we’ve simply overlooked. Since that day, I have held onto her advice and have made sure to look up at what is right in front of me. I had begun noticing aspects of architecture that I had been overlooking, and now I pay more attention to the action that is happening around me, appreciating everything in life so much more.
Another lesson that I am grateful I was able to realize during my study abroad semester was to take a step back and leave behind the worries and fears of missing out because you won’t be able to do everything. Don’t get caught up on your travel bucket list and all of the countries you desperately want to see or the things you arrived having planned on doing, because you will miss out on what is right there in front of you.
Luckily, I was able to realize this early on and I chose to spend the time exploring my new home in Florence in addition to planning trips to other Italian cities as I was there for the Italian culture. Whatever you end up doing and wherever you end up going will be absolutely incredible and you will take so much from each of those experiences. Don’t become upset over the things you may not get to do, because you will one day have the perfect opportunity and ability to see that place or have that experience you’ve always hoped for. Take each journey as it comes, enjoy it, and it will be far greater than you could ever hope for.
What is your favorite memory from studying abroad?
While there are so many memories and experiences from those four months to choose from, one of my absolute favorite memories was an SAI excursion just outside of Florence in the Tuscan countryside to Agriturismo Diacceroni. We drove out through the countryside around the time we would have been spending Thanksgiving with our families back home until we reached the breathtaking views of this Italian farm.
During our time there, we picked olives, saw some of the farm’s animals, took a tour of the Agriturismo, learned about olive oils and wines, and had the best Thanksgiving meal we had ever had prepared for us by their lovely and talented chef. This was the first Thanksgiving I had ever spent without my family, and to my surprise this factor quickly faded from my mind as I sat around a table of new friends, eating an unexplainably delicious Thanksgiving meal including turkey and mashed potatoes that made me feel as though I was on cloud nine. Not only were the staff so wonderful and the food outstanding, but the turkey made by the chef was the first turkey she had ever made. I couldn’t believe it! I learned so much about their agriculture and how much time and care they put towards making their products. This was one of the most culturally charged experiences I have ever had and it is one that I will never forget!
How has studying abroad changed/shaped your future career goals?
For me, studying abroad had a major impact on my life and my future career goals. When I arrived, I was completely unaware of how unsure I was about what I wanted to see as my future career goals. I was passionate about art and design, culture, traveling, and community engagement. So, once I went abroad and started experiencing all of those things, I also became quite confused and uncertain of my future career goals which was a scary feeling to have. However, as a result of my experiences and the choices I made there, everything finally began feeling as though it was falling into place for me. It was the first time I hadn’t just been convincing myself I was excited and hopeful of what my future career goals would be, but I truly began to feel that way. Studying abroad is what made me realize what I wanted in my future and finally brought me down the right path towards what I was most passionate about.
I was part of SAI’s Global Leadership program and I became very involved with SAI activities and excursions, all of which helped me realize how much more excited I am about global topics and culture than I thought. I met some of the most inspiring people and learned so much. By the end of my semester abroad, I realized that I wanted to change my major, so I contacted my advisor before returning home and was able to change my major to Global and Cultural Communications. I can’t imagine things having worked out any other way and I believe that everything happens for a reason. This opportunity has given me the ability to feel far more excited and confident in whatever my future holds for me, and I love my new major more than I ever could have hoped to.
Kara was a fall 2018 Florence student from Suffolk University.