We got in touch with SAI alumna Kristen Martin, who studied abroad with SAI in Florence in Fall 2016, to ask her about her experience and her life now.
What have you done since studying abroad?
I graduated from the University of South Carolina in December and then a month later I moved to Dallas, Texas to start my dream job! I work at Neiman Marcus as an assistant buyer in the beauty division.
How has studying abroad affected you?
Studying abroad pushed me further than I ever imagined. I was so fortunate I had the opportunity to travel to so many different countries within Europe but what really was amazing was that I was able to call Florence my home for four months. Immersing yourself into a new culture for that long really turns out to be something beautiful. I was constantly pushed outside my comfort zone. I joined an Italian yoga studio where I really learned how to appreciate and love my body. I also made a point to travel all by myself. I would have never in a million years thought that would be something I was capable of, but something clicks when you are abroad and you can do anything you put your mind to. Studying abroad opened my mind up to everything this world has to offer. This world is full of endless opportunities and it brings out the dreamer in me. I now want to live abroad one day! I also saw a new way of doing things. I enjoy walking everywhere, olive oil has become my best friend and there is not much a big scoop of gelato can’t fix. All in all, studying abroad taught me how to live my best life. I understand more clearly what I want out of life and I have the drive and inspiration to go after it. Studying abroad shaped me in a way I never knew I could be shaped.
What are some of the most important lessons you learned abroad?
I cannot believe it’s already been a year since I left for abroad!!! Thinking about and reminiscing on those memories, I learned a whole lot! Most importantly, it taught me how to be independent and to enjoy the little moments in life. I didn’t know anyone when I chose to study abroad in Florence just like I didn’t know anyone when I moved to Dallas. I had to put myself out there and learn how to adjust on my own. Whether it was just going out to eat, going to museums, walking around the neighborhood, I did it all by myself at first. Studying abroad made me comfortable in my own skin. This is such an important trait to have as it also ties into having confidence and believing in yourself. Studying abroad also taught me to enjoy the little moments. Put down your phone, ignore all the distractions and enjoy the company you are with, even if it is just your own company. Some of my favorite memories I have from abroad are the ones I don’t have pictures of but in my heart and my mind I have the most vibrant and amazing memories!
What was your “SAI Moment”– a defining moment in your study abroad experience?
I had my “SAI Moment” the last day I was abroad. I remember it vividly. All of my friends and I were sitting on top of Piazzale Michelangelo watching the sun set over the city. My roommates and I went up to this same place one of the very first nights we were in Florence. We were all awkward and uncomfortable but amazed and in awe at the same time. We had no idea what was going to hit us these next four months. As we watched the sun slowly set for the last time abroad, we reminisced on all the adventures we had in Florence and all over Europe. All of the countless nights stuffing our faces with pizza, pasta, and wine, jumping from taxi to train to plane back to the train and never missing a beat, pretending to be Italian but sticking out like a sore thumb, and everything in between. We reflected over the past semester as we watched the sun set over the city and I was reminded how lucky I was not only to have just spent four months in one of the world’s most beautiful cities but also to have 6 amazing friends to share it with. After those four months, we all realized how much we have changed and how much this world has to offer. As I am looking back I feel like it was all a dream. Studying abroad changed my life forever and that moment on top of the Piazzale Michelangelo reflecting on the past semester with all of my best friends is one I will always hold close to my heart.