The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This summer my childhood and college dreams finally came true: I had the privilege of studying abroad in Italy this summer during a 10-week program at Institut Sant’Anna. A full season on the coast of southern Italy in a beach town called Sorrento had its ups and downs and it really wasn’t what I expected. Although it was a dream, I had some growing pains; as well as amazing food, intense travel stories, and a new perspective on Europe, the United States, and life itself. On this trip, I had to keep a few facts in mind: I’m a young college girl, I’m black and Puerto Rican, and I’m fluent in Italian Not! With that in mind, I had to be careful but open-minded as I was entering a different culture than my own.
Sorrento serves as a transit point for travelers on their voyages to the Amalfi Coast, Capri and Ischia. So each day brought a new group of tourists and individuals from around the world. With this in mind, the language barrier was less of a barrier and more of a recommendation. This also led to a hybridization between the two European cultures in the heavily visited area, as well as the apparent influx of American students who litter the cobblestone streets and beach chairs every day.
I knew I had to travel. During my time there I traveled to Barcelona, Madrid, Ibiza, Santorini, Rome, Capri, Florence, Paris, Positano, Naples, Pompeii and really immersed myself in the ins and outs of Sorrento itself every day as it was my new home! I also knew that I wanted to travel around Europe with my roommates, but also on my own. So one goal was a solo trip to Switzerland! I booked a last minute trip to Geneva, a riverside city known for its international and political importance. This has really been the best thing for me because whenever I feel overwhelmed by life in general, I withdraw and my mind opens up. I went on a chocolate tour, ate fondue and allowed myself to embrace my surroundings as I found myself in a place I never thought I would be; A moment that almost brought me to tears.
Well, as many would assume, food has been a constant topic of discussion, but for reasons many would not suspect. As far as I could tell they really do eat pasta and pizza every day! For me, this has been a struggle as I crave and eat a diverse palette on a daily and weekly basis. When I was craving carbs, pasta and pizza, I was in a generous menu and surrounded by Italian cuisine (obviously). But when I wanted a Chick-fil-A sandwich or a steak for dinner, I was left with unsatisfied cravings. This combined with one of the hottest heatwaves Europe has ever seen and spotty wifi and air conditioning, there were a few days where I was in a “negative mood” to say the least.
Overall, my classes were very interesting. I had the honor of studying the mafia, Italian cinema, Italian cuisine and culture, and the history of western civilizations during my time in Sorrento at Sant’Anna. I had the opportunity to study in a city like I have never seen or experienced before. Our classrooms had a literal view of the city of Naples, across the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that erupted over Pompeii. As a history buff, this both excited and fascinated me as I was living in a historical dream. I’ve also found a new love for cinema and how it can translate a story unlike anything else.
In the United States we are in a bubble; a bubble that eliminates the struggles and experiences of other places around the world. My entire college career and faith have been involved in breaking this trend and bursting this bubble. My message to the country and other young adults would be to educate yourself and enable belonging and camaraderie as we move towards professional careers and an extremely connected and technology-driven world. This trip allowed me to experience first hand the differences and similarities of drastically different cultures, languages and personalities as many of the situations I found myself in felt like they could have happened somewhere or be specific to the region . I highly recommend studying abroad if you have the opportunity and travel whenever you have the opportunity as the world is big and your mind is ready to experience it.