Student Experiences: Rita

Photo: Rita visiting the Colosseum on a trip to Rome. 

Why did you want to study abroad, and where did you choose to go?
It has always been my goal to visit at least 50% of the countries in the world before I die. I like to learn about different cultures and step outside of my comfort zone. I thought of no better way to make my college career worthwhile than to participate in an education abroad especially if I’m getting credit for it, gaining skills for my future career and also exploring the world.  

Describe your campus and what student life was like:
I did not get the opportunity to study on campus however, I commuted to the CAPA building which had other students studying there as well. Although we weren’t always together, the other students seemed nice and we all got along well.

Rita at the Colosseum

Photo: Rita at the Colosseum in Rome

Was there a language barrier? And if so, how were you able to get through it?
I wouldn’t say there was a language barrier as most Italians in Florence spoke English, however, communications were a bit difficult at times if you met someone who wasn’t as fluent in English. Purchasing items was difficult sometimes because almost everything is in Italian. 

What did you find most challenging throughout your experience?
What I found most challenging were FOMO (fear of missing out), and the time zone prior to studying abroad, I had plans for the summer but obviously studying abroad topped it. Talking to family and friends often made me second guess my decision and wonder what I could’ve been doing if I was back home. Initially, the time difference got to me and made me a bit grumpy during the first few days. The time difference sometimes made it difficult to contact people back home. 

Rita in Florence with Bridge

Photo: Sunset at the Ponte Veccio bridge in Florence

What were your accommodations like? 
I lived in an apartment that was found through CAPA

How were your courses?
I only took one course that counted toward my major. It was pretty interesting because it wasn’t taught the traditional way. We practiced while we learned at the same time meaning that we had lecture days and as a follow up on the topic went on excursions to tie everything together.

How was the food?
The food was amazing. Everything was fresh and earthy. Every dish I had pleasantly surprised me. 

Was it challenging to navigate throughout the country?
Not really. Everything was pretty straight forward especially if you are familiar with physical maps and Google Maps.

What did you do in your free time?
I explored my neighborhood and city more as well as other cities. I also hung out with the other students that went on the trip with me. 


Photo: Rita made some new friends in St. Marks Square on a trip to Venice.

Do you have any recommendations for students to do/visit while in the country you went abroad?
If you want to learn about Italian history, I would suggest you take a tour of their countryside like Modena where you see how cheese, balsamic vinegar and many more are made. If you can, definitely go on the gondola ride in Venice. That's one thing I regret not doing. 

Did you travel to any other countries or cities while abroad?
I did not travel to other countries while I was in Italy however, I did visit other places within Italy- Venice, Rome, Cinque Terre, Modena, Bologna, San Gimignano.  

How did you manage your money abroad?
I cooked a lot instead of eating out constantly and prioritized what I needed over what I wanted. I refrained from withdrawing money from the ATM to avoid additional fees. I smartly managed my social activities by partaking in activities that didn’t require a lot of spending or by finding cheaper alternatives. 

Rita Cinque Terre

Photo: Rita enjoys the views in Cinque Terre.

Overall, how was your experience? And do you have any tips for future students who may be interested in traveling to the same place as you? 
After the experiences and falling in love with Italy, I did NOT want to leave! I enjoyed the sight, the smell, the sounds, the energy of the people and most importantly MY GROWTH. I felt more confident, self-assured and more independent which made me dread the thought of returning home. Not one day was dull. The people were extremely nice and welcoming as well. For future students, I encourage you to forget the hesitation and just go for it! Have priorities, make a budget, be open minded, set goals beforehand and take advantage of every adventure.