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Europe Diaries: A ‘la dolce vita’ kind of semester abroad

You know that feeling you get when you dream of a really exciting place you want to travel to? The feeling that gets in your whole body, and gets your adrenaline so high, like you drank an entire gallon of coffee or you’re about to jump off a cliff. I get it every time I daydream of a place I want to visit.The feeling grows as I research the place, the flights, the accommodation, the objectives. It makes me so excited and happy, like I’m already there, experiencing it all. That’s the feeling that pushed me to move to another country for 3 months and experience life in Italy as a study-abroad student in the Spring of 2019.

Colorful buildings, dressed in hanging vine plants, light-blue Vespas rushing by on narrow paved streets, seagulls chirping close by, dreamy coffee shops where relaxed Italians drink their cappuccinos – this was the painting-like life I pictured when I decided I wanted to move to Italy, la dolce vita that wanted to experience myself.

So I did. Last fall semester, I hoarded all the study-abroad magazines I could find and went through them until I found the perfect adventure for me. I burst into the Center for Intercultural Advancement with little to no guidance needed of what program I’m going to choose for my study-abroad semester. It was Italy, of course, and it was the Three Cities Program with API.    

If you know me, you know I'm crazy about seeing as much as I can and having a variety of experiences, so this program was ideal because it gave me the opportunity to live in three different Italian sceneries: Tuscania, dreamy country-side; Rome, vibrant capital; and Venice, touristy, picture-perfect city.    

As it turns out, there’s a number of steps to take prior to being officially semester-abroad ready. Over the fall semester, it was a weekly task to get all my documents in order: class registration, housing application, and flight itineraries. It took about two months to get every form I needed and the Study Abroad office at Wagner was very helpful throughout the process. Thankfully, as a European citizen, I didn’t need to get a visa for Italy, but it typically takes about two weeks for US citizens to get it.

Italy did not disappoint. It was all I imagined and more. We strolled around the cities endlessly, visited art museums, went hunting for vintage stores, learned the process of making olive oil and mozzarella, had lots of pasta and gelato, went out dancing and spoke somewhat understandable Italian with strangers, admired all the beautiful buildings and vibrant streets packed with restaurants and shops, and last but not least, spent lots of time enjoying la vita bella with a cappuccino and a cornetto at local coffee shops.

Classes were great too. Since this program made us change cities each month, we had a different class schedule meaning we took 2 classes per month, 4 days a week for 3 hours, so it would make up the 45 hours required for class credit. It wasn’t easy having to take a test each or every other week or cramming assignments, but at the same time the classes we took were fun and the professors nice, so it ended up being a great experience. My favorite was the cooking class, of course! What’s not to love about a class where you not only learn about Italian cuisine and regional culinary traditions, but also get to experience it every day? After the short lecture, we would cook delicious meals that we got to eat afterwards! This entire educational experience helped shape my cultural awareness and expanded my knowledge and skills.

Another great thing about studying abroad is being surrounded by like-minded people coming from different places and backgrounds. The other participating students also experienced that “feeling” that made them get out of their comfort zones and move to another country. They also love traveling and exploring new places and cultures. With people like this you will be crazy enough to book a trip to Vienna no later than… well, the first weekend of the semester! With them you’ll share meals and gondola rides and catch a bus to Croatia for the weekend. And with them you’ll reunite a year later in the US, to catch up and stir up memories.

All in all, studying abroad was one of my favorite things about college and I am grateful to Wagner for making it possible. So, if you’re like me and feel that urge to travel, if your adrenaline gets so high while you daydream of a place you’d like to go to, trust that feeling and go for it. Go find that perfect adventure and make it happen, because trust me, there is no better way to learn more about the world and yourself than going out there.

And remember: your next adventure is just around the corner, you just need to look for it!