This week’s interview is with senior Maura from Seton Hall University who traveled to Italy Summer 2015. To save money she ended up taking three different plans and having a four hour layover in Canada. (If you want to save money sometimes this is the best option. You get there just like you would a direct flight, but it just takes a little longer.) While in Italy she lived in Florence where she lived in an apartment on the Arno River with three other students from her program. She took Italian classes for her language requirement. She really enjoyed the classes because she the focus was more on the conversation as opposed to her classes at her University. They spoke only Italian during the class which helped her improve her Italian. Her teacher was very relaxed and made for a wonderful classroom setting. Before she starting reading La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with the Italian Language and finished it while in Italy. She recommends that everyone does this to capture a “glimpse of the culture before you arrive”.
If you go to Seton Hall University and are interested in learning more about her program please continue to read and you can contact me or leave comments in the comment section.
How did you prepare (research, changing diet, packing, ect):
I did not do any research before leaving. My aunt has been to Italy 10+ times. She was a major resource for what to pack and things to see.
What were some of the most important things you packed:
Longer pants and dresses, as well as shirts with sleeves. Although I arrived in the middle of a European heat wave, the churches in Italy are very strict and you must have your shoulders and knees covered out of respect.
What did you use the most:
I used my phone a lot. In Florence, they have free city wifi in major tourist areas. That was really helpful if I ever was lost or looking for something to do.
Name the one thing you are so glad you packed and name the one thing that was unnecessary:
My sneakers. Before arriving in Italy, I had no intention of really exercising. But my roommate was into hiking so I did a lot more exercising than I thought I would. I would have missed out on incredible experiences and gorgeous views if I had forgotten my sneakers. I should not have packed my Italian textbook. I think I opened it once while I was there. It was super heavy and we bought our own books for class when we got there.
What were some differences you noticed about the people compared to Americans:
Everyone was so friendly and always willing to give directions. Everyone was very approachable.
How did the country perceive Americans:
In Italy, Americans are pegged as major tourists. I was constantly being approached by street vendors to buy their goods. Around major tourist attractions, they cater to the Americans by only speaking English and having English translations on their menus in restaurants.
Did you make friends with the locals? If you so how hard was it? Where there any barriers that made it difficult (language, cultural things- men and women not being able to hang out, ect):
It was really difficult to make friends with the locals because there were a lot of tourists. However, I became very close with one local that I happened to meet on Tinder. I went on a few dates with him and it was such a fun experience to get to know someone who lived there all his life.
What was your favorite food:
When I visited Rome, I tried a traditional Roman pasta dish called Cacio e Pepe. I was in heaven! That was my favorite, however, I never met a meal in Italy that I did not love.
How did you get around (car, walk, bus, ect):
I walked everywhere! It was a 2 mile walk to school every day, which helped me stay in shape. I took the train 3 times, twice to the beach and once to Rome. But most of my other trips were through tour groups, so we took buses.
What was your favorite thing to do:
When I wasn’t sightseeing, I really enjoyed sitting outside Santa Maria Novella church in the piazza. Every time I went there, I saw something new. They constantly had live music, I saw two parades, and handsome male models with about 20 Dachshund puppies. When I wasn’t there I was sitting along the Arno enjoying the sunset on the river.
How was the nature (describe the beaches, mountains, valleys, ect):
Everything was absolutely beautiful. I visited so many gardens and spent most of my time outside. One of my favorite moments was standing on the beach and being able to see an entire mountain range!
What was the most awkward experience you had:
I accidentally set off the alarm in the Gucci museum!
What were some differences cultural wise between there and the US:
They are energy conscious in Italy. Most places don’t have air conditioning and it took a while for my body to adjust. Some restaurants that cater to Americans advertise air conditioning because it is a major selling point. They don’t waste water or energy. I have become far more conscious of the amount of energy I use now that I am home.
Describe the best experience you had while you were there:
I can’t pick just one. The entire experience was surreal. All I can say is that I have never felt happier in my life than the time I spent in Italy, and even my family noticed. It is truly a magical place. I know my heart is forever changed. I came back a very different person, and I like to think it was for the better. I am already planning to go back.
Would you go there again, why or why not:
I was ready to go back the moment I stepped on the plane to go home. I have so many more places and sites to see. I know my next trip, I want to see the Amalfi Coast and visit my family in Avellino.
Any tips for those who plan on studying abroad:
Embrace the experience and the culture. Do everything and see everything you can. You never know when you might return. It might seem scary at first but it will change your heart.
I hope you were able to get a glimpse of what it was like to travel to Italy and were just as excited as I was writing this post. Like I’ve always said if you have any comments, questions, or concerns please feel free to leave a comment and follow my Instagram @wanderlustingandcarpediem