Making the Most of Study Abroad

I fell in love last year; not with a person, but with a place and its culture. In fourteen short months, Italy charmed its way into my heart with its rich history, beautiful language and the way of life. To think just this time last year I had already finished my first semester at the University of Bologna, I am so grateful for what my time in Italy allowed me to experience and learn. From the moment I stepped foot into the oldest university in Europe, I was taken aback by the vibrant frescos and detailed crown molding lining every room. As a Global Economics major at the University of California, Santa Cruz, I instantly knew that choosing to study in Italy was the perfect decision for me.

Realizing how quickly my first three months studying at the UC Center in Florence had passed, I am so grateful that I chose to study for a longer period of time because a summer quarter was simply not enough. Within my first few weeks living in Bologna, I started to become friends with the local shopkeepers and other students around the city. My experience was about more than just creating relationships, however, it was invaluable time spent speaking the language I had worked so hard on and learning about the culture far beyond what a textbook could teach me. My year was filled with learning how to make fresh pasta by my Italian roommate’s mother, teaching English to Italian children, challenging myself with language and cultural barriers both in and outside of Italy, and most importantly, I learned how to overcome those barriers and make the most out of every situation.

Inside the classroom, all of my courses were taught in Italian and exams were taken face-to-face with my professor. Aside from the Economic Development course I took, I chose to take courses outside of my field of study to learn more about the Italian culture and history. These courses included the History of Diet, History of Italian Cinema, Sociology of Immigrant Literature, and a Mosaic art studio course at the university’s art academy. Beyond the classroom, I held two great internships with non-profit organizations called Bologna Connect and Human Rights Nights. These internships gave me work experience with international organizations and opportunities to meet new people and get more involved with the community.

When initially deciding how long to study abroad, there were many factors I needed to consider. One of the most prominent was how I was going to afford to fund my time abroad. With plenty of research and dedication, I am grateful to have received scholarships such as the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which granted me the ability to further develop myself as a person and better refine my academic, personal and professional goals. This scholarship program offers grants to U.S. citizen undergraduate students with financial need and a dedication to pursue an international education. Without being awarded this scholarship alongside the Duttenhaver Scholars Program and UCEAP Promise Awards, I would not have been able to participate in this incredible experience.

Overall, my fourteen months in Italy was an experience that changed the way I think, learn and live. I am more appreciative of opportunities that are given to me, spending time with my loved ones and embracing any situation that I can grow and learn from. I know that from this day forward, I will take all that I had learned throughout my experience and apply it to whatever path I chose to take in life.

By Lily Cardiner, senior global economics major