For my STEP project, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy for Maymester 2015. I lived in an apartment in Florence with another girl from the program and took a class entitled “Italian Food and Culture.” In our class, we learned about the differences between Italian and American ways of agriculture and preparing food, as well as the differences in the ways we enjoy our meals. We also learned a lot about the Italian way of life. Over the course of the trip, we traveled to Venice, Rome, Tuscany, Cinque Terre and Bologna. We studied art, history and food. We were fully immersed in the Italian culture and learned so much about not only Italy, but ourselves as well.
Throughout completing this project, I grew a new understanding about other cultures and myself. I learned how to adapt to change, try new things, step out of my comfort zone, communicate with others and live life to the fullest. Traveling to a foreign country without a parent or supervisor there to guide you can be very intimidating. I got lost more often than not, but each wrong turn led me to a new place and experience. Navigating the city with only other people my age enabled us to bond over figuring things out together, like: where to eat, where to turn and what statue we were studying. I learned how to communicate with people from all over the world. A lot of the trip was spent trying to pick up on social cues to adapt to the new culture. I gained a lot of independence on that trip and really felt like I utilized every moment that I was there to experience something new.
There were kids from all over the United States in my program, so it was awesome to make new friends from my own country on top of meeting people from all over the world. We had the privilege of visiting several churches, buildings and museums, including: The Coliseum, the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Mark’s, the Duomo, La Academia and several other famous landmarks. This led me to a better understanding of my Catholic faith and my Italian heritage. I learned so much about art and history during my time there, and grew a new appreciation for the beauty of Italy. There is so much history and it was mind-blowing to see buildings, paintings and statues that were hundreds of years old. I also spent a lot of time eating my way through every city we visited. I learned how to cook classic Italian dishes and how to truly “live to eat.”
This experience was extremely valuable to my life. I gained a lot of confidence going on this trip and learned a lot about myself as a person. As they say, the best way to learn about the present is to study the past, and it was such an amazing experience to go back to where my ancestors are from and where my faith was founded. It was really fun meeting so many new people and being able to connect with them despite language and cultural barriers. After traveling to Italy, I feel more comfortable taking risks and putting myself out there in my personal life, as well as trying new things and being more adventurous. All around, it was an incredible experience that I was extremely fortunate to be able to participate in through STEP. It truly changed my life and grew my understanding of myself as an individual and the world around me.