Two years ago I decided to backpack through Europe. I took a semester off of school, counted up my life savings and bought my ticket. I ended up seeing a total of 19 countries in three months. In that time, I grew more as a person than I could have ever imagined. Growing up in a small town with a population of less than 4,000 had sheltered me for most of my life, and stepping out of my comfort zone and leaving everything behind was as exhilarating as it was terrifying. Although I didn’t spend enough time in each country to really become familiar with their culture and ways of life, I still got to witness a few of the many differences our unique world has to offer. Now living in Chicago and studying art history, I am returning to Europe to study the incredible works of the Renaissance masters.
I hope that spending an entire semester in Italy will help me to get a feel for the true italian way of life. As an art fanatic, I want to become familiar with the art Italy takes pride in. As a barista and coffee lover, I want to know how to flawlessly order a cappuccino in the morning and drink straight espresso after a meal. As an amateur foodie, I’d like to know how local cheeses and pastas are made; I am hoping to sign up for the cooking class offered by my school so I can not only learn how to cook, but cook well. As an aspiring polyglot I hope to vastly improve my knowledge of the Italian language so that I can interact with people around me. And finally, as a girl with a passion for knowledge, I am excited to learn things about Italy and about myself that I couldn’t learn by staying comfortably at home.
I realize that a semester abroad, although an amazing opportunity, will not be enough time to fully understand a complex culture and its people. But there’s no better time to start than now! I plan on carefully documenting my travels and museum visits to keep even small moments close to memory. I look forward to getting lost within the narrow streets and getting lost in the paintings. The old palazzos and alleys of Florence, where I will be studying, haven’t changed much in the past millennium, so I look forward to walking on the same paths as Michelangelo and Brunelleschi.
When I return home (I haven’t even left yet and coming home already seems so sad!) and the reverse culture shock wears off, I hope to integrate into my life the lessons I will learn abroad. Like the italians, I hope to cook more, walk more and spend more quality time with friends and family. I hope to use my new knowledge of Renaissance art while applying for graduate school and while writing my senior thesis. Most of all, I hope that by fearlessly diving into a new culture, I will gain a confidence needed to endure the upcoming challenges I will face in academia and beyond.