Posted: September 22, 2020

Italy will always inspire my curiosity and appreciation for people different than me

In an Olive Grove in Verona

In an Olive Grove in Verona

I came to college with a very ambitious goal: to travel abroad once every year. As challenging as I knew this desire would be, financially, timely, and in many other ways, the embedded courses offered here at Penn State made it all possible. From the time I was a child I was fascinated with other cultures and I couldn’t get enough experiences. I certainly didn’t grow out of this enchantment as I got older, instead, it got stronger! As a rising senior (graduating May 2020) with this goal still in mind, I was fortunate enough to have been a part of two embedded programs, to Greece and Denmark, prior to the one I am writing about currently: Italy.

Over Spring break in 2019, my junior year, I travelled to Verona, Bologna, and Florence, Italy. I did this through co-embedded courses BIOL 475N: Anatomy in Italy and IT 175: Italian Language and Culture for Embedded Experiences. To be a part of this embedded experience, both courses had to be taken. To be completely honest, I was originally just in it for the Anatomy course, as I am an Immunology and Infectious Disease major and I have a natural curiosity for the human body. We went into the cadaver lab multiple times throughout the semester and compared anatomy texts from Renaissance Italy to now and we studied anatomy as it developed throughout Italian history.

However, as the semester went on, my favorite course out of my entire schedule was Italian. As a German minor, I love language and I ended up highly underestimating how “easy” Italian would be. It ended up challenging me and I grew to love the language, so much so that I decided to pursue another romance language, Spanish, throughout my last year of college. Outside of the language we also studied the culture of the Italians and the course became discussion-based after our return, where we could analyze how we experienced the culture ourselves. Because of this co-requisite Italian course, this embedded experience taught me more than any other that I have had the honor of participating in. Especially with the addition of learning the basics of the Italian language (even if the Italians typically answered us in English, which was certainly a frustrating learning curve.)

We started our ten days in Italy off in Verona during Carnival, a festival to celebrate the beginning of lent. There was a parade, open-air markets, and an abundance of people. We also spoke with a Professor of Public Health, who explained the Italian healthcare system. We then travelled a bit outside of the city to visit Redoro, an olive oil factory, and an olive grove, where we came back to a traditional Italian cooking class! After Verona, we travelled to Bologna, where we met University of Bologna medical students. We were welcomed by the University and spent the next few days visiting anatomical wax museums with the medical students, as well as perusing the city with them. Bologna turned out to be my favorite city; experiencing the city with the Italian medical students was priceless. We finished off our trip in Florence, where we visited many traditional things, like the Ponte Vecchio, Michelangelo’s David, and even the La Specola Anatomical Wax Museum.

Each opportunity I have ever been honored to have abroad continues to give me such a deep appreciation for other cultures. However, it was this embedded experience to Italy that helped me solidify what I am going to do after I finish my undergraduate degree. I have decided to pursue a Master of Public Health degree, where I will focus on Global Health. This can combine my love for health and people to my love of culture and language. I have always wanted to combine my passions, but I was always unsure of how. However, the combination of the IT 175 and BIOL 475N courses showed me that it is more than possible. Italy taught me that immersing yourself in different cultures is crucial to understanding and respecting other people as I learned through the difference between our predispositions of “Italy” and the true “Italia”. Regardless of where I end up in life, whether it be working in the rural towns of the United States or the low-lying mountains of Cambodia, Italy will always inspire my curiosity and appreciation for people different than me.

International Programs

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International Programs

Address

106 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802