I’ve wanted to study abroad since I found out that such programs existed when I was in high school. I was always asking my parents if I could do programs like learning about turtles in Costa Rica or building orphanages in Nicaragua. I have never been out of the country, and my parents refused for me to go for my first time alone in remote villages at what they felt was too young of an age. I then set my heart on studying abroad once I was in college. I had always planned on studying in Spain, because I felt that anywhere in Europe would be an ideal location for travel since I had never been out of the country, and I can speak Spanish.
At Chapman, the studying abroad process begins a year before you wish to study abroad. When the time got around to finally start learning about the different programs I really started noticing Italy. Everything about it seemed so intriguing: the cobblestone streets lined with open shuttered windows and line drying clothes, the warm and friendly nature of the people, and arguably the best food you can find. There wasn’t a single person I knew who had studied in Italy that did not tell me that they had “the time of their life”, that it was “too amazing to even begin to describe” or that it was “the most life-changing experience”. It had the ideal travel location I wanted, a language that wouldn’t be completely foreign, and everything about it sounded completely adventurous–which was exactly what I was looking for.
Chapman works with a program called Athena Abroad for many trips, including Florence, Italy–my ultimate destination. My school in Florence is Lorenzo de’ Medici. It stood out so much to me when I was looking at programs because of all of the classes they have available for various areas of studies (rather than just general education classes). Since my minor at Chapman is Art, I decided that Italy could not be a better place to take some of those classes. Everyone at Lorenzo de’ Medici is required to take Italian, so I am in the beginner’s class in addition to a ceramics, oil painting, photography, and world art class.
To be completely honest, the tasks leading up to studying abroad were more stressful than I ever imagined. There was insane amounts of paperwork, packing (then unpacking my overpacking), and four separate flights in the way of me getting to Florence, but once I got here all of that stress and anxiety went away.
The first thing I noticed were the streets. Besides being cobblestone, they are not very wide and zigzag in such randomly jumbled ways, instead of like a grid. The second thing I noticed was how fast the taxi drivers speed through them, even when there is only a centimeter between their car and the vespas lining the sides of the streets. I came two days early because of flight changes, so I stayed in a hotel. Both the driver and the concierge were incredibly warm and friendly, which was very appreciated after landing in what was to be my new home for four months. I since have yet to encounter a single Italian who is not also warm and welcoming, and it has so far made it very helpful for the transition to living in a foreign country.
Submitted by Michelle Farang, Abroad101 Global Ambassador in Florence