When it came to selecting a study abroad program, I had a little bit of a commitment issue…at first.
Knowing that I wanted to study abroad actually played a really big role in deciding where I wanted to go to school. I fell in love with Goucher College, partially because of their dedication to global citizenship and their study abroad requirement. During my first semester of college, I longingly looked at Goucher’s program offerings and decided that I would probably spend a semester in Copenhagen.
From the time I decided I wanted to study abroad, there was no doubt regarding the length: I was definitely doing a full semester. The short ten days trips in high school were amazing, but I wanted more. My original study abroad plan was to go during the spring semester so I did not miss a season of cross country…but then I decided to ‘retire’ from running on a team. Even so, my desire to travel abroad in the spring stuck. After making that decision, wanting to go in the spring limited my choice on the year I would go; I couldn’t head abroad as a sophomore as I missed the application deadline and I clearly couldn’t spend the last semester of my senior year abroad.
Though cliché, I desperately want to have to travel as much as I can during my time abroad. To be able to do that, economically and geographically, it meant that I would study abroad in Europe. After I made that decision, I needed to figure out the language component. While I have taken 5.5 years of Spanish, my level of understanding doesn’t quite match that. I definitely do not know enough Spanish to take classes taught in the language, which meant I needed to find a program that taught classes in English. Outside of class, however, I was willing to be surrounded by a language I didn’t speak. Italy emerged as the perfect location, due to many programs being taught in English and a (slight) familiarity with Italian due to my (slight) knowledge of Spanish. I’m going to try to learn as much Italian as I can, but being in a city will mean more people speak English when I need to fall back to my native language.
I have friends who have had incredible homestay experiences. They loved the family they were with and truly got a taste of the culture of where they were studying. Knowing that I want to travel on the weekends made me consider the possible negative impact that could have on my relationship with a host family. In the end, the program I selected had the perfect balance: apartment living scattered throughout normal buildings (not university owned) with the ability to join Italian Family Club, which meets once a week and allows you to bond with a local family.
Major and double minor, undeclared until my sophomore year, transfer student, spending a semester abroad…let’s just say I need to be careful so I can graduate on time. That means that it is crucial that my classes abroad count towards graduation requirements. I need to take classes in my major while I’m abroad, which severed my budding relationship with Susquehanna’s Prague program when I was deciding my top choices. I didn’t just want classes to fill requirements though, I wanted to take some that just sounded interesting too. Enter “Pasta, an Italian Staple: From History to Table.”
My instincts told me that everything was right about Prague…until it wasn’t. I realized the program didn’t really have everything I needed and wanted regarding my living situation and classes. Then, I found the Florence University of the Arts program with Global Semesters (University of Nicosia). EVERYTHING that I wanted from my study abroad experience was being offered by the program, topped with experiential learning opportunities. I fell in love with the program so much that I had a hard time picking a second choice…I wasn’t really sure how my heart would have handled being turned away from my number one. A few weeks ago, I found a Facebook message I sent a friend after I spent two short days in Florence my senior year: “I really loved Florence, I felt very comfortable and at home there. I think it’s the first place in Europe that I REALLY want to go back to. It was so beautiful, a perfect blend of old and new.”