We caught up with SAI Ambassador Jackie, who took some time to answer some questions about her time abroad.
What is your favorite memory from studying abroad?
It’s hard to pick just one moment, so I’ll pick my FIRST favorite moment. When my roommates and I went to Cinque Terre a few days after arriving in Florence. It was the first of many trips we took together. We were still getting to know each other and adjusting to our new normal. We arrived on the train to the second stop, Vernazza. We sat and watched the waves crash up against the sea wall and snapped photos and videos to capture the moment. I was on awe that this is now my life for the next semester. A few of my roommates and I snapped a photo with the beautiful town of Vernazza as a backdrop. I vividly remember while taking the photo that I had the purest sense of happiness and excitement; it’s a feeling I’ll never forget. At that moment, I knew that the next few months would be the best months of my life, and sure enough that feeling became reality.
What travel tips would you give someone studying abroad?
Don’t plan all your weekend trips before arriving in Florence. It’s best to make weekend travel arrangements once you meet your roommates and make friends that way you can make plans together. Just like you plan weekend trips all over Europe, it’s important to plan a weekend to stay in your host city. No matter how many warnings you hear about people not fully exploring their host city because they were busy traveling elsewhere, it will happen so make it one of your weekend destinations.
What advice do you have for new study abroad students?
Take risks, do something that you wouldn’t normally do, talk to people you might not usually talk to, eat food that you aren’t sure that you’ll like. Never waste a day abroad because when it’s time to leave you’ll wish you had just one more day (or semester).
Do you have any tips for learning the language while students are abroad?
Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Listen to the people around you and pick up on key phrases. I didn’t know any Italian before studying abroad in Italy but I was able to learn short phrases that allowed me to order food, ask simple questions, and understand what people were saying to me. Most of the Italians I came across knew some English so it was much easier than I expected to communicate, but the locals appreciate when foreigners attempt to speak Italian when living in their country.
Jackie was a fall 2017 SAI Florence student from the University of Tennessee Knoxville.