Why did you choose this program? I chose BCSP because it was the most intensive Italian language program that was available. I'd known since I was fourteen that I wanted to study in Italy, so I was pretty well-versed in Italian by the time I got there and didn't want there to be too much English.
Describe your favorite class abroad. My favorite class might have been Cultural Anthropology, because I felt the most like I was really on top of the material for the class. The text was written by an American, but I read it in Italian, so it helped me think in both languages at once.
What was the housing like on your study abroad program? I lived in a really adorable apartment with two really smart, adorable, feminist girls. We all cooked together and listened to the same music, which made me feel very at-home. I was in the city center, just a little closer to the suburbs. I was on one of the main streets that led straight to the middle of the city, around where the university and the BCSP office were, so it was about a ten-minute walk. I loved it there.
What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students? Don't be afraid to change things for the better. Everything, of course, will be sparkling and exciting because you're abroad, but you're still you. If you know something doesn't feel as right as it should, don't doubt yourself. Make your experience the best it can be.
What’s your best memory from your time abroad? I went on a trip to Cinque Terre with my current roommate. She was studying in Madrid and came to visit me so we could get to know each other, since we'd signed a lease in Bloomington already. Cinque Terre is the most beautiful place on the planet, which is made even better when you're there with someone you miraculously really love hanging out with.
What was your biggest surprise about the location, culture or other aspects of your program? I think I was surprised at how many international students there already were in Bologna. There were students from all over Europe doing the ERASMUS program already, so being an American abroad was barely a surprise to anyone. There were all sorts of programs and events for international students.
Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock. Most of my culture shock came from gender dynamics. My very feminist roommates were not part of it, but I witnessed some relationships in which the gender roles were pretty outdated in my perspective. It wasn't everywhere, it was just noticeable to me when it was happening.
“If I could do it over, I would…” Travel by myself more. I was a little too worried about studying, as well as a little too much of a procrastinator, which means that I had a lot more free time than I thought I would. I could have been taking solo trips all around Italy but I didn't really imagine it being so feasible.
What do you know now that you didn’t know before you went abroad? Peanut butter is hard to find in Italy, and you'll get weird looks if you drink anything with milk in it after 11:00 AM. You also absolutely cannot wear socks with sandals, even if you try to make it look American-chic.
What do you wish someone had told you before you left? Don't hold back.
Would you recommend that future students take an internship and why? I had two internships, and I'd definitely recommend it. They made my resume look a lot better, and one of them was just so fun and heart-warming that I think everyone should get to fill their time that way.
What was your greatest challenge? I had originally moved into an apartment with a young couple- when I'd met them, they were incredibly outgoing. Living with them was different, though- it was expensive, far from school, and they turned out to be very unkind. I knew that I couldn't let my whole semester go by without feeling at home or welcome in my own apartment, but getting out of that situation was really complicated and emotionally taxing. Words cannot describe how worth it it was in the end. I loved my new roommates.
Discuss: “Going abroad vs. staying on campus.” Staying on campus is really nice, and as a transfer student, I can say that I always wish I'd had more time in Bloomington. However, there is no better time in life to temporarily change everything about the way you live. Opening your eyes to a new country and a new system is one of the most important ways you can educate yourself. Plus, IU makes it so readily available that it will never be so simple and joyous anywhere else.
What fact about your host country do you think people would be surprised to learn? Italy tends to be very strict about food. It's interesting, because there are things like Chinese and Japanese restaurants, but I was told by multiple Italians that they just don't feel like they've actually eaten until they've eaten Italian food. Italian cuisine has so many rules: chicken can't be in pasta or on pizza, potatoes and tomatoes don't go together, milk after 11:00 is not allowed but gelato at any time of day is fine, and flavor spectrums cannot mix (e.g. savory/sweet).
How did you find scholarships for study abroad? I applied for the program scholarships that were on my application for BCSP, as well as the HIEP Hutton Honors scholarship, which I found by talking to peer counselors in Education Abroad.
Would you recommend other students pursue any specific scholarship opportunities? Definitely try to get the HIEP scholarship. You don't have to be in Hutton, and as long as you follow the instructions, you'll probably receive some money. That scholarship really helped me relax about finances.