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La Vita Bella a Firenze, Italia (The beautiful life in Florence, Italy): Abigail Miller Agribusiness Management & Telecommunications

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Posted: December 18, 2012

I’ve learned that traveling is the best way to grow as a person. The different cultures, people, language and environment allow one to step outside their comfort zone and really explore every opportunity.
Arno River with the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge in the background

Arno River with the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge in the background

Moving to a new country with four months packed into two suitcases was overwhelming to say the least. Arriving in Florence the first day I remember having a mixture of excitement, nervousness, anxiety, and interest for all the new things I was going to encounter in the next four months.

It is extremely difficult to try and describe my time in Florence in two pages. There is not a moment when I was there that I didn’t learn something new or was out of my comfort zone (in the best way), I simply loved every second of it. Florence became my home and by May I could not imagine leaving this new found home, never knowing when I would be back, and certainly not in the way I had been.

My aspirations are to someday own my own winery, so what better place to learn the expertise of some of the best wine makers than in the countryside of Italy? I was able to visit many different wineries all throughout Italy in San Gimignano, Chianti and Toscana and explore the endless vineyards, learning about the family traditions and techniques of making their superb wines.

MillerItaly2.pngThe skills I have learned when in Italy were unlike any I could have learned from home. Yes, they include skills that I learn daily at Penn State through my course work and job, but I looked at these opportunities in a different manner. Communication was difficult because of the language barrier, but it taught me to think outside of the box and become more creative with hand gestures and inflection. It also pushed my Italian language study habits more, one can only get so far with fumbling words before they may starve because of the language gap. I had to engross myself in the Italian culture so I would not be looked at as merely a ‘stupid American,’ I wanted to understand the Italian way of life and truly become apart of their town and lifestyle.

One of the greatest skills I did learn while abroad was when traveling between countries. Maneuvering airports or train stations with an unknown language and the bustle of thousands of people running every which direction definitely taught me how to make decision, solve problems and manage my time efficiently. With just this experience of traveling, I became more independent and aware of my leadership skills by being able to get myself and my friends from point A to point B successfully.

In Amsterdam I had my entire purse stolen and was without any form of identification, wallet or cell phone so getting home to Italy seemed nearly impossible. Luckily, remaining calm and using my problem solving skills, I somehow managed to safely make it back to Italy. It was a huge lesson to be learned, but it made me realize I was able to take initiative and solve any major problem that came my way.

MillerItaly3.pngIt is truly difficult to explain my time abroad in Italy. Those who have studied abroad may understand what I mean by this because there are really no words that can truly describe or define my time there. I do know it changed my life because it opened my eyes to an entirely new world, full of opportunities. I was able to gain simple, yet vital, skills that I would have never been able to at Penn State or even in the United States. I learned more about myself as an individual than I ever thought possible and would have never imagined I would have become such a different person after four months that first day I arrived at the airport in Florence.