This post is about my summer abroad and my Italian romance that bloomed while there. If anyone who reads this is inspired to go travel, I have accomplished my goal.
I first learned about my study abroad program from a hippie professor during a lecture. She was teaching a course I was enrolled in, Public Relations 270. I was intrigued by the way the program sounded, so I went home and dug into thorough research. I found that the city was small and beautiful. I could totally see myself living in Italy.
I had hundreds of concerns that overwhelmed me at the time. What if I didn’t receive scholarship? How expensive will travel be? Is it going to be safe?
All of my concerns faded with time and with all of the encouragement from study abroad alums, friends, and family. I received a generous amount of scholarship, allowing me to make the final step into changing my life.
Finally, the day came. I was leaving America for Siena, Italy.
Here is a photo of Katy and I about to head for our gate to Siena. You may not be surprised to hear that this picture was forced by our parents.
I studied in the quaint city of Siena, Italy for a total of five weeks. During this time, I took a 400 level Public Relations course and let me say, the professor was not easy. That woman isn’t playing around with grades. Luckily, outside of class she’s a pretty chill woman with millions of fascinating stories from a rockin’ career. Also, she’s very earthy and hippie, which makes her pretty cool in my opinion.
Waking up early every morning, I would get coffee from my block’s coffee shop, attend class, eat pasta, buy wine (which was very cheap), study in the park, and eat more pasta. My roommate and I had picnics all of the time; sometimes we brought bread and cheese to eat with the wine, which we always brought.
During the weekends, I would travel to other cities. That is how I met Leonardo, my Italian hunk.
During my first weekend in Italy, four friends and I went to Elba Island. After taking a ferry, we were picked up in a small, red truck by a small, Italian woman. She was our Air BnB host and spoke no english. The roads were windy and she had terrible driving skills. This made my poor friend Robert, who was forced to hover in the bed of the dinky truck, scream like a girl a good half of the time.
Lorena, the host, had prepared everything prior to our arrival and it was beautiful. Perfect, in fact. She was extremely sweet and eventually called her son to help her translate. That is how Leonardo and I first met, in a way. We spoke on the phone multiple times in order to communicate with his mom.
Although I didn’t see any photographs of her son, our WhatsApp conversations had become flirtatious. I joked with his mom about marrying him. She thought it was hilarious when I said Leonardo, pointed to my wedding finger, and called her mom. Maybe she was just laughing at me and didn’t actually understand….Actually, she was probably just laughing at me, now that I think about it.
Back in Siena, I was able to watch something called The Palio. The Palio is a six horse race that has been performed since the city’s creation. Siena’s twelve districts compete in it and there are many long-lived rivalries. The race lasts about five minutes in total. But after learning the history, living among the month long preparations, and standing four hours to see the race, I might say this was my favorite day of all my travels. I highly recommend researching ‘Siena Palio’ on YouTube.
This photo was taken the day of the Palio. If you can’t tell, there are thousands of people crammed into the city’s center. The horses race around the circle of people.
I also got to do things like take a cooking class, wine tasting, hiking, and eating. SO.MUCH.FOOD. I left America disliking wine and came back a connoisseur, I’m sure all of my American friends hate how nerdy I am about wine now. Also I’m pretty sure everyone hates me for talking about my summer constantly. How could I not? I miss it every single day.
Aside from Elba, I visited Pisa, Florence, Napoli, Capri, San Giminano, Grosseto, Cinque Terre, and Rome.
Here we are in front of the colosseum in Rome. After this picture we discovered a local restaurant and I had the best lasagne of my life. That is what I remember best about Rome, the lasagna.
In Pisa, I scheduled a time and place to meet Leonardo. I was very nervous, thinking of movies like Taken and Taken 2. What if he was some weirdo who just wanted to drug an American girl and take advantage of her? Or worse… what if he was ugly? Just kidding. I was excited to meet him no matter what, although looks were going to be a bonus. I knew he was in college as an aerospace engineer, his mom was a sweetheart, and he had been very polite over text. What could possibly go wrong?
To my pleasant surprise, I arrived to see a handsome, nerdy, and very Italian boy. He brought along his dog, a gorgeous golden retriever named Achille and met me at the train station. He wanted to go for a walk and get gelato. So that’s exactly what we did.
He would probably kill me for posting a picture of him but oh well. Here he is on our first day of meeting. Does he look in love with me yet?
After my program ended, I took three extra weeks to backpack around different countries. I spent time in Switzerland, Spain, The Netherlands, France, Germany, and Ireland. I hiked the Swiss Alps, ran with the bulls in Pamplona, walked down the red-light district in Amsterdam, drank wine by the Eiffel tower, stayed with a German family in Stuttgart and hiked through the black forest, and drank beer in Dublin. None of this would’ve been possible without the push to study abroad.
My favorite of all of these countries was Switzerland. Although the prices were ridiculous, the views made it all worth it. Below is a photograph of a portion of the hiking in Switzerland.
As for Leonardo and I, after spending many days together in Italy, he decided to come to Ireland with me. After an amazing week of being together in Dublin, we agreed to date. Basically, I just completed every girl’s dream of falling in love with a beautiful Italian man. We have now been dating for two months, which is pretty good for an across-the-ocean relationship.
Here is Leonardo and I after spending a long morning exploring Dublin.
All in all, I spent eight weeks in Europe and I cannot wait to go again.
The language barrier can often be uncomfortable. I once got locked inside a bathroom stall and no one understood what was happening because they did not speak English. I was sweating like a pig inside an un-air conditioned public restroom, with ten minutes before my ferry left for Capri. In Switzerland, I missed a train because I could not find an English-speaking person to guide me the correct way. But these are the memories I love, the excitement of being in a foreign country and immersing yourself in it.
Studying abroad taught me so much about myself and my future. It exposed me to new experiences, encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone, and allowed me to embrace other cultures in a way that is impossible to do in America.
I believe that everyone should get an opportunity to study abroad. Whether a student wants to study in Africa, India, Italy, or Australia, it doesn’t matter. There is exciting food, music, people, and customs just waiting to be explored. The world is an amazing place and by exploring it, you are learning more than you ever thought you could.
And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be lucky enough to find a foreign romance.
Throwing my coin into the Trevi fountain in hopes of returning.