I’ve been sifting through boxes in my closet and finding old treasures, like postcards from all my travels abroad, and even a journal that my Italian teacher had us keep during my semester abroad in Torino. I can’t believe that exactly 12 years ago this month I hopped on a plane to Torino. I thought it would be fun to reflect on the impact that studying abroad had on my life all these years later.
This is a picture of a picture because my CD of pictures is so old it wouldn’t even open on my computer!
Why did I decide to study abroad in Italy?
The real question should be, how could I not study abroad in Italy?!
1 Heritage: I have always been drawn to Italy because of my heritage. My mother always spoke fondly of the “Old Timers” as she referred to her relatives from Italy. I was really curious to know where my ancestors had come from. Also, Italian was my late grandfather’s first language, so I felt learning Italian would be a beautiful way to honor his memory and continue his legacy.
2 My university degree: My undergrad degree is in International Affairs (sounds kind of seductive, right?), so I took mostly political science and language courses. By my last year of university, I had completed all of the requirements for my major and just needed credits to graduate. So I thought, why not spend my last semester in Italy?
3 Scholarships: I received the millennium scholarship from the State of Nevada, which paid for *most* of my tuition with the exception of books and study abroad expenses, which I justified as necessary for my degree. In addition, I had already studied abroad in France, so I received a small discount from my study abroad program.
Where did I study abroad?
I studied abroad for the 2005 Spring semester in Torino, Italy with USAC.
What classes did I take?
It was a dream semester for my to study exclusively Italian and also art history.
What did I love about Torino?
I really loved that Torino was not a touristy city, so I was able to use Italian at restaurants and whenever I was out and about. The lack of English was really apparent to me when I took a trip to Florence, and I heard Americans on every corner.
We frequented the same restaurants and pubs, so by the end of my semester in Torino, it really felt like home. Not to mention, I was there in 2005 as the city was preparing to host the 2006 Winter Olympics, and they uncovered Roman ruins in one of the smaller piazzas. It was like a living museum! Torino was also in a great location, so I was able to take trips to Nice, France, Corsica, go skiing in nearby Limone, and visit Venice, Rome, and Florence.
Where did I live?
My program didn’t offer accommodations with host families because most people in Torino live in apartments. Dorms were also not an option, so we were all placed in apartments throughout my city.
I shared a tiny apartment with an American roommate from my program. It was centrally located off of Via Madama Cristina, one of the main roads, and in between Piazza Castello and the university. We were in the middle of the action, so our place was often the meeting point for dinner parties.
We had the sweetest landlords, an elderly couple who lived upstairs in our building. My roommate and I could barely speak Italian, and they didn’t speak any English, so our only common language was French. When I was sick they gave me medicine, and they gave us a book about Torino as a going away present, which was so thoughtful.
What was my favorite memory?
I actually really loved going to Italian class. There was a cafeteria on campus where we could get the best cappuccinos, and our class always ended up chatting over coffee. My teacher even took our class out to dinner, and that’s when I started feeling really at home and connected to the culture. We also had an Italian tutor, one of the local students, who arranged dinner parties for us frequently. I learned that the the best way to learn a language was with friends over the dinner table.
What would I have done differently?
I would have done my entire degree in Italy (like Tia Taylor). I am not sure if that was an option at the time, but now there are many universities in Italy that offer degrees in English that do not cost an arm and a leg like they do in the States.
I would have started with learning Italian better before I left, which is a lot easier to do nowadays through YouTube and Italki). I was quite shy, and adjusting to a new culture and city was overwhelming enough without adding the pressure of learning another language. In Italy, I would have made an effort to get out of my comfort zone more and really learn Italian well (which is why I studied abroad in the first place). Most of my friends were American or Italians who spoke English. I would have been more proactive in seeking out opportunities to speak Italian.
How did studying in Italy change my life?
I had wonderful teachers in both France and Italy when I studied abroad, and it’s really because of them that I felt comfortable abroad and connected to the culture. I was so inspired that I decided to become a language teacher myself! My original career plan was to be a diplomat, and after studying abroad, I realized that the best way to create peace and understanding among cultures is through language.
I will be sharing more from my semester abroad in Italy, including some journal entries about my cultural observations! Stay tuned!