Home Alumni Alumni Spotlight: Katie’s Spring Semester Abroad in Florence

Alumni Spotlight: Katie’s Spring Semester Abroad in Florence

by AIFS Abroad
aifs abroad student in front of ponte vecchio in florence, italy at night while studying abroad

Doing a study abroad program can be a life-changing experience. Just ask Katie, a college student from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and an AIFS Abroad Alumni Ambassador who spent a spring semester studying in the Italian city of Florence.

“Choosing to study abroad in Italy was by far one of the best decisions that I have ever made in my life. My experience through AIFS Abroad in Italy was uplifting and rewarding in many ways. The program’s included field trips, meal plan, and course selection all immersed me into the true Italian culture. One piece of advice I can give anyone who is considering going abroad — or maybe you have already made the decision to do so — is to DO IT! Do all the things and take the ‘risk.’ You will thank yourself later!”

Katie, AIFS Abroad in Florence, Italy alum from UNC Wilmington

Now that she’s officially part of our alumni community, Katie can reflect on her study abroad experience. Read on to hear all about it in our recent interview with her.

Interview with Katie, AIFS Abroad in Florence, Italy alum from UNC Wilmington

Introducing Kate

Q: Hi everyone! I’m here with my new interviewee today. So go ahead and introduce yourself.

A: Hi, I am Katie. I go to school at UNC Wilmington. I’m studying Political Science. When I studied abroad I went to Florence, Italy. I was there for the spring semester.

Why Florence?

Q: Why did you select that program and why did you want to go to Florence?

A: So I wanted to go to Florence because I knew that I didn’t want to go to Rome and I didn’t want to be in a super busy city. I know Florence has gotten more popular in the last few years but it’s not as stressful as Rome. I also just liked the idea of the different excursions that were offered on the Florence spring semester, so I’m very glad that I chose it.

Setting Goals and Expectations

Q: So as you look back on your time abroad, did you set any academic or personal goals for yourself? And if you did, did you achieve those goals or make any progress with them?

A: I don’t know if I necessarily set any academic goals just because my study abroad — I was lucky enough to where I really just took fun classes. I didn’t necessarily need to fulfill any major requirements because I had time to take sort of a break while still studying. But for personal goals, being abroad really gave me more confidence in myself and allowed me to be more independent. I’m already a very independent person, but when you move across an ocean from your family, it really gives you more independence. And I was able to really thrive off of that. I think that was kind of a personal goal that I had set, to just allow myself to be myself on my own.

View of the Duomo in Florence, Italy
Florence, Italy

Personal & Academic Growth

Q: Is there something that you learned on your program that you think you maybe wouldn’t have if you didn’t study abroad?

A: Well, if I didn’t study abroad I probably wouldn’t have ever learned the language, the Italian language. And I’m not good at it but I’m glad that I tried and studied a little bit of it. If I didn’t study abroad, that wouldn’t have happened. I also wouldn’t have realized that there’s so much opportunity in the world. When I grew up in the same town that I’ve lived in my entire life until I went to college, which is still in the same state, growing up I went to the same — I lived in the same house, never really went through much change. I kind of grew up in a little bit of a bubble and I didn’t realize that not only are there other countries out there but there’s even other states that are different. Lifestyles are so different across the state, across the world, across the country. I’m really glad that I was able to experience that because I think if I didn’t I would have been stuck in this bubble for the rest of my life. Because I know some people that have never had the opportunity to travel or just never took advantage of it and are still stuck in that bubble. And I think that they would be able to understand my experience more if they traveled and saw the world through their own eyes and own perspective.

aifs abroad student eating gelato in florence, italy during semester abroad
Kate enjoying delicious gelato in Florence, Italy

Skill and Talent Growth

Q: So when you’re abroad, we know that certain talents or strengths can develop [because] they’re in a new environment, new setting. Did you notice that any of your talents or skills kind of started to come out or shine while you were abroad?

A: So I mentioned earlier that I’m an independent person and before going abroad I already was. I like my independence, I thrive off of my independence. I studied abroad my sophomore year of college. So my freshman year and fall semester of sophomore year I had independence and I was away from home and I was in college and just doing my thing, but I never had the independence that living abroad gave me. It gave me, “travel whenever you want to,” you know? I think my independence is a strength of mine. So that, I feel like, is something that really shined while I was abroad. And I also wasn’t very confident before going abroad. I think I got confidence through just going out and being independent — like my independence gave me that confidence. When I came back it it kind of faded away a little bit, but I’m working on getting back to where I was with my confidence.

aifs abroad student enjoying pasta in florence, italy
Kate enjoying a traditional pasta dish in Tuscany

Discovery Through Cultural Immersion Abroad

Q: Did you notice that while you were abroad meeting other people with different backgrounds or cultures — [were] there any challenges or any opportunities to learn while you were abroad with the differences in backgrounds?

A: I think the European lifestyle in general is very different from the American. I know Italians can have a stereotype of just being very slow and taking the day as slow as they can and just taking advantage of the day. They’re never in a rush, unless they’re driving, they’re never in a rush. They’re just living their life and I loved that. It was challenging to come back from it. That I found to be most challenging because I don’t want to always be like go go go go go, but I had to in order to fit back into the American lifestyle.

Another challenge was just the language. I think most of Italy or at least the bigger cities people speak English so was fine. When you go to smaller restaurants or smaller towns, it can be more challenging because they may not understand what you’re saying and you just have to be patient with it and yourself. But it also had a lot of benefits with the different backgrounds. I was able to connect with people that even — my ancestors are from Italy and I was able to connect with people through that based on my last name. They saw my last name and they were like, oh that’s Italian. And I’m like yeah, “My ancestors are from Calabria and Sicily.” It made it cool that even though I didn’t grow up in Italy and my grandparents didn’t grow up in Italy, I had great grandparents that did and it made the lifestyle and culture feel — I don’t want to say home — but feel true.

aifs abroad student at the leaning tower of pisa in pisa, italy
Kate at the Leaning Tower of Pisa in nearby Pisa, Italy

Sustainable Living Abroad

Q: Being abroad in Europe, there are some more sustainable lifestyle opportunities. Did you find that any of these were incorporated into your experience and do you think you will continue to use these practices now that you’re back home?

A: They’re very strict in Italy on recycling and taking out your trash. Very specifically, here — at least where I live recycling includes pans, glass and paper. That all goes under the same thing. But there, you separate your paper, you separate your glass, you separate your metals, and then your trash. Because I’m here and it doesn’t really matter — like I don’t have separate trash cans that I have to put my recycling into — I don’t incorporate it here. It was a little challenging to have to set everything according to what it was, but that’s one thing. And also, I was fortunate that my apartment in Italy had air conditioning but not everyone is and that isn’t common. I didn’t use the air conditioning while I was there. I grew up with air conditioning and a fan every night. That’s how I slept, that’s how I sleep during the summer. But I kind of have been limiting air conditioning use. I’m hoping that is helping me be more sustainable.

aifs abroad student studying abroad in florence, italy at famous boar statue
Kate with famous Boar statue in Florence, Italy

Study Abroad Advice

Q: So I just have one last question. Is there any advice you would give people who are thinking of studying abroad?

A: I would just say make the most of it. You’re probably gonna spend a lot of money, and you’re not going to be very happy with yourself after. But in the moment, you’re going to want to spend the money either on a leather purse or the trip the somewhere. I am so glad that when I was there I didn’t limit myself from anything, and I really just took advantage of all of it.

Ready to take the leap and study abroad? We’d love to help you start your journey!

Here at AIFS Abroad, we know a thing or two about helping college students and pre-professionals study and intern abroad. Our programs are incredibly inclusive, which takes a lot of the stress out of planning. From coordinating your housing to providing things like cultural and social activities, excursions, comprehensive insurance, 24/7 emergency support, on-site staff, and more, you’ll take comfort in knowing you’ll have support throughout your entire experience abroad.

0 comment

You may also like

Connect with us on Facebook