The trip of a lifetime: My five weeks in Italy

By Haley Slaven

Lumen Reporter

Ever since I toured Viterbo and my guide informed me that she was able to major in nursing and study abroad, it has always been a dream of mine to do both. The program I chose after two years of research was Academic Programs Interna­tional (API). Through this agency I attended Lorenzo De Medici in Flor­ence, Italy for five weeks this past summer.

I chose to take a Renaissance his­tory class so I would be able to not only learn the material, but visit the sites where events in Italian history actually occurred.

Although the university was spread out in different buildings all over Florence, mine was about a 10-minute walk from my apart­ment. My class had about 15 people in it, so it was comparable to some courses at Viterbo. The class was very typical with two essay exams, a presentation and a paper. Luck­ily, my class transferred as a history credit to fulfill a requirement for the nursing program.

Although I am somewhat of a nerd, I absolutely loved going to class. One day we learned about Dante and his life. Then, for the remaining hour of class we walked the streets of Florence with our professor and went to Dante’s house, the church he attended, his muse’s house, and other important places in his life. Other subjects included learning about Michelangelo and seeing his “David” satue, studying Leonardo Da Vinci, and visiting the Uffizi Gal­lery to see his famous works.

Through API, my living situa­tion couldn’t have worked out any better. My roommate was a friend and there were six other girls in the apartment. We all shared a kitchen, living room and dining room and our windows opened to the Arno River and famous Ponte Vecchio Bridge. In our room we even had a little balcony where we could sit, eat dinner and watch the sunset. One of my highlights of every night was to listen to a local man play the guitar and sing in Italian on

the bridge out my window. We even bought his CD so we could bring the music home with us.

What I learned from studying abroad was that with a little perse­verance, common sense and organi­zation, the sky is the limit. With this mind-set, I was able to travel to 15 other cities on the weekends, either through API or with some friends. The experiences I gained from these trips were unbelievable.

Some of the highlights included: climbing the Duomo and taking an Italian cooking lesson in Florence, jumping off high rocks on the island of Capri, going on a gondola ride at night in Venice, walking through the ruins of Pompeii, going to Juliet’s house in Verona, hiking in Cinque Terre, eating seafood in Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast, watching the sun­set in St. Peter’s Square and touring the Colosseum in Rome.

Although I do not look even slightly Italian, I had people speak­ing to me in rapid Italian by the end of the trip because they mistook me for a local. Once I was comfortable enough, I didn’t open a map in pub­lic, I never wore “American cloth­ing,” and I always greeted shop owners with a typical Italian phrase. I even got to the point of bartering for items in the market in full Ital­ian.

In order to learn you must first make a few mistakes. I cannot tell you how many times vendors laughed at me or corrected my Italian, but now those are words I will never forget. I actually started speaking Italian to a cashier in the North Carolina airport, and that is when you can tell you really experi­enced a culture.

When I came back to the U.S., everyone was so excited to hear all about my amazing trip. The first of many questions I was asked was, “What was your favorite part?” I must have looked slightly silly be­cause I didn’t know what to say. Even if I sat down with someone for hours, I still could not possibly tell all my stories and express how abso­lutely incredible this trip was.

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