"You can’t be afraid to put yourself out there and make mistakes, because in the end you learn from them, and it makes you more successful than if you had just sat back in fear.”

This view is of the city of Naples, an urban beach town that has the best of both urban life and beach life.

This view is of the city of Naples, an urban beach town that has the best of both urban life and beach life.

Traveling has always been a passion of mine, so when it came to study abroad, I knew my college experience would not be complete without it. The hardest part was deciding which place to travel to, but since I decided to minor in Italian, the decision became a bit easier. I chose Italy to learn about my family roots, immerse myself in the culture, and learn the language of my mother. I most certainly was not disappointed.

I participated in a six-week study abroad program, called Todi, Italy: Italian Language, Art History, and Culture that took place during Maymester (May 18- June 30). The program offers nine credits, so while I was there I took Italian 003, Art History 299, and Italian Culture 299. The unique part of this program is instead of having an apartment, you have a homestay with an Italian family living in Todi, Italy. I chose the program for that specific reason because it allowed me to be completely immersed in the culture.

I think the most rewarding and most challenging part of my trip was staying with a host family. Not only do you have to adapt to living in a new country for six weeks, but also you have to communicate with the family in a language that you are still in the process of learning. The women that we were staying with did not speak nor understand any English, so we were forced to speak completely in Italian. In the beginning it was very difficult, and we had to use a lot of hand gestures to get our points across, and there were many moments of miscommunication, but we kept persevering. By the end of the trip, I was able to have full conversations with our host family, and it was one of the most rewarding moments of the entire trip for me. When speaking in a different language, you are forced to think through every word you say as you translate it in your head. It is not an easy task, as so often in English we do not have to think before we speak. I learned how to communicate with more than just my voice, as body language, emotions, and tone of voice became an important part of communicating with the family.

Through my experience of learning the language, I learned how to be able to forgive myself for the mistakes I made in speaking. I learned that the more you put yourself out there, without fear of messing up, the more you will learn. My goal from the trip was to be able to have a dialogue in Italian. Because of my willingness to try, determination to learn, and support of other students on the trip with me who were all experiencing the same challenge, I was able to accomplish that goal in the end. This lesson translates into everyday life, as you can't be afraid to put yourself out there and make mistakes, because in the end you learn from them, and it makes you more successful than if you had just sat back in fear.

A typical week on this program was attending school Monday through Thursday from 8:30am-4:30pm, and then traveling to new places on the weekend. During the six weeks, we traveled to thirteen different cities throughout Italy; Assisi, Orvieto, Florence, Siena, Volterra, San Gimignano, Naples, Pompeii, Capri, Caserta, Perugia, Pienza, Tivoli, and Rome. This experience was amazing, but it also taught me a lot about time management. I had to learn how to balance family life and traveling with school and homework. Every day after school, we would come home to a freshly made snack and sit down with our host mom to tell her about our day, then every evening we would all sit down together for dinner and have a three-course meal that would take one to two hours. Every Sunday, we would have large family lunches consisting of about twenty-three family members and tons of delicious food. These lunches would take around four hours, and included an appetizer, pasta, meat, salad, and dessert--all homemade by our host mother. Family lunches were extraordinary but stressful as we usually had exams the next day that we had to study for. I had to learn how to prepare ahead of time so that I could allow myself to live in the present moment and not be thinking of everything that still had to get done for school. It was a lot like going to college and having to learn how to balance social life with school life. This lesson will stay with me in semesters to come as I continue practicing staying on top of my work and living in the present moment in my daily life.

International Programs

Address

106 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802

International Programs

Address

106 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802