This summer, I spent seven weeks studying in Italy. My program was filled with surprises from stepping out of the subway station and seeing the Colosseum to upon arrival at our residence, finding out that I would be sleeping in the living room of our one-bedroom shared apartment (it’s a European thing). I learned so much through this experience, not only academically, but about myself, my peers, teachers, travel, and culture. On this trip, I rode a subway and train for the first time. I surprised myself by figuring out the train system and gained confidence in using public transportation including subways and buses. We were based in Siena which is a very historic and culturally rich city in the region of Tuscany, but were fortunate to have the opportunity to visit various cities in Italy including Rome, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Florence, and Venice.
I took two courses during my study abroad trip. One was a comparative medicine class in which we learned about the Italian health care system from health care professors and practitioners and compared what they do to how we do things in the States. While I was abroad Roe v. Wade was overturned, and I was surprised at how much the Italians knew about what was going on politically and social in America. Our other class was a culture class that was taught by the assistant director of the university. He was so enthusiastic about sharing his culture and the history of the city. This program was unique because it was targeted at majors in the health care field. As a nursing major, there are limited study abroad opportunities. Through this program, we were able to work with a medical university in Italy and shadow at a hospital for a couple of hours.
Although we had class five days per week, we had ample free time to explore the city and take trips to other cities. Our trip began with four days in Rome where we saw the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Vatican, and so much more. I got to try a traditional Roman dish, Supplì, which is a call of rice with tomato sauce with mozzarella stuffed inside. The whole thing is coated in egg and breadcrumbs and deep fried. Basically, like a mozzarella stick with a layer of tomato rice on the inside. It was one of my favorite dishes. Pisa was our first self-directed day trip and it was when I learned to use the Italian train system. Through this experience, I also learned to trust my fellow students in the logistics of traveling. I ate pizza in Pisa which I thought was pretty clever. Before leaving the country I had never heard of Cinque Terre, which translates to five earths. It is a area on the coast in Italy and they are five cliffside cities connected by a the sea and a trail. As you can imagine, the seafood was amazing. We hiked from one city to another and ate pesto in the city that is famous for it, and saw the city that the movie Luca is based on. In Florence we admired paintings and sculptures and ate Florentine steak. Venice was my favorite city that we visited. We happened to be in town for an annual festival and got to watch fireworks from a gondola on the water.
Through this study abroad experience, I was able to see, learn, and do so much. I discovered a love for learning about and being immersed in other cultures. Knowing there are other ways to live is one thing, but experiencing it is another. One part of Italian culture that I hope to incorporate into my life is the work to live, not live to work mentality. The Italian way is to take things a little slower and take the time to enjoy all of life’s moments, big and small, good and bad. I am so thankful for the personal growth and leadership skills I developed through this experience. It truly was the experience of a lifetime and if you ever have the opportunity to study abroad, take the leap!
Megan Scalf (BSN Nursing) spent summer 2022 studying abroad in Siena, Italy with a program run through UT Martin. Megan had the following to say about studying abroad, “Carpe diem! Studying abroad is the opportunity of a lifetime. If you have the chance, take the leap and do it! You will not regret it.”
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