When I was still a child I would dream of studying abroad. It feels so rewarding to now be able to say to my younger self that I did it! I have fulfilled one of the things that I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember and in doing so I have completed the first of many trips that I will never forget. Six weeks does not seem like a short time but when you are studying abroad it feels like a blink of an eye, a single breath of fresh air before being shoved back into the normalcy of regular everyday life.
I studied abroad through USAC in their Viterbo program. One of the things that I will say is that if you are looking for adventure and a challenge then I would recommend this program. This program had two field trips that immerse you into Italian culture and daily life. These field trips also allow you to see parts of Italy that you may not be able to access otherwise. Most of the cities you would want to visit, especially in the north of Italy, are very easy to access through Viterbo. Viterbo is a perfect sized town if you are looking to experience the average Italian lifestyle and make some relationships with the locals.
While I was in Viterbo I made friends with the people at the grocery store as well as the gelato store. They knew who I was, an American, every time I went into the stores. They were overall very understanding and calm, even when I would stumble over something in Italian. After a while they would ask me the same questions within the same order so I could get into the rhythm of answering. Many of these conversations were through broken English and Italian, a sad amalgamation of roughly ten words in each language, but to me it was memorable and heartwarming to see someone try and speak to you to make your day.
While everyone raves about the food, which is completely reasonable, I would also like to highlight that the produce that you can buy within Italy is significantly different from the produce in America. It is much fresher and more flavorful because of the freshness and lack of importation of fruits and vegetables within Italian culture. Now, this isn’t to be too harsh on American consumerism, but it is to show the difference in the two cultures. In America we have so many buffets and all you can eat places, truly the glutton’s paradise, but in Italy there is hardly any of these and it would be almost frowned upon. This is because food is meant to be quality and it is meant to be shared over a long duration of time. I once sat at a restaurant in Italy for 3 hours and yet they didn’t bother us once, allowing us to drink and talk, which in turn gave me an interesting perspective on the eating culture. In Italy there is very few drive-thru restaurants, the only I saw was a McDonalds in my program city. This culture of eating allows you to truly have deeper conversations with the people you are on the trip with, and you build lifelong friendships through this deep conversation.
Sarah Mulkey (BA History) spent the Summer 2023 semester studying abroad in Viterbo, Italy through USAC. Sarah had the following to say about studying abroad, “Students who wish to have an unforgettable time and memories that will last a lifetime should consider doing a study abroad through USAC. I was amazed by how affordable it was and the experience you get to have for that price. My only regret with my program is that I didn’t do it for a full semester. Studying abroad truly is an unforgettable experience.”
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