Name: Linda On
Major : Pre-Business/Business Administration
City: Florence, Italy
Host Institution: UC Center Florence
Ciao, my fellow Highlanders.
This time last year I remember applying to study abroad in Florence, Italy for the summer of 2013. To be completely honest, I didn’t think I was going to go through with it because I was in my first year of college and still very confused about what I wanted. Wanderlust and adventure definitely run through my veins, so I just thought, “When am I ever going to be ready for anything?” A number of meetings, countless amounts of paperwork and three connecting flights later, I found myself flying over the hills of Tuscany.
To say that I was scared and nervous would be an understatement. I was going to spend the next 10 weeks of my life living in a different country, learning another language and trying my hardest to make one friend. The first couple of days definitely were not postcard perfect, and not to mention I lost my luggage for three days, so that definitely added onto the stress of living in a foreign country.
In retrospect, my time abroad had its ups and downs but I absolutely wouldn’t change anything about it. I loved waking up every morning with a purpose of doing something new. I loved wandering the cobblestone streets of Florence and indulging in the most amazing meals Italy had to offer. And surprisingly, I loved attending class. I took two Italian courses and a cinema class and it was so personal and interactive. I definitely bonded with both of my professors and actually learned a lot. Fair warning my friends, the “study” in study abroad is not just an ambiguous word — you actually are expected to study!
My friends and I always joked that “we didn’t come to Italy to get As,” which is what brought me to Paris, Amsterdam and London. Paris was a gorgeous escape filled with escargot, baguettes, sightseeing and crepes. Amsterdam was definitely the craziest and haziest weekend of my life, which involves almost missing a flight and a final! London was industrial and reminded me so much of home. We had no time for sleep because we attended EDC London, visited Big Ben, rode the London Eye and even found time to have real English tea. Yet with all of this country-hopping, I still spent a lot of time in Florence.
My favorite memory in Florence would have to be the Fourth of July. Everybody has a moment where they kind of sit back and realize that they made a damn good choice to come abroad, and the Fourth was my moment. My friends cooked home-made burgers and made some all-American food to cure our homesickness that day. We had an American flag, took a bunch of pictures and sported our red, white and blues. We spent the night out on the town and met so many other Americans and we all just commemorated our patriotism. That night was so great because it made me realize how small the world was and made me feel so grateful to be in Florence, and even more grateful of where I’m from.
Studying abroad is more than just seeing the sights. I remember the first time I ordered a cappuccino in full Italian and the barista responded in full Italian. It’s for moments like those: moments of personal growth, of realizing who you are or the potential to be who you want to be. Studying abroad has allowed me to open my eyes to the world, to become accepting of other people’s cultures, languages and backgrounds. It was the best experience of my life and I hope you fellow Highlanders take advantage of the opportunity!