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Exploring Italian Language and Culture

Posted on November 07, 2019


Why did you decide to study abroad?

I saw studying abroad as an opportunity to learn a different language, culture, and lifestyle that would fill me with a new perspective that I could then share in my future endeavors. Italy has an outstanding Health Care System, and as a future nurse in the United States, visiting a country with such characteristics would help me make many contributions to the future locations I will work at by sharing my experiences with them.

Tell us about the program you went on

I was part of the "faculty-led study abroad program" for Miami-Dade College. While studying abroad I was housed by the Lorenzo de Medici Institute, located in Florence, Italy.

How did you pay for your study abroad experience?

I was lucky to be one of the few students in my study abroad program with 2 scholarships: Diversity Abroad Scholarship and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. I also worked for a period of 6 months as a part-time student assistant at my university to be able to take some extra money for travel and unexpected expenses.

What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?

The one thing I wish I would have known before going abroad was the exact amount of money I was going to spend while studying in Italy. One of the hardest things I had to do while abroad was to learn how to manage my money. Italy was fairly expensive and when you visit a country you have never been to it is normal to want to buy many things. All the trips I would take to other cities were also expensive so I had to be very careful not to spend more money than what I took.

Did you experience any discrimination abroad because of your race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or a physical disability? If so, what did you learn from the experience?

I was fortunate to not experience any "direct" discrimination while abroad. I was studying in the center of the city which is more of a touristic zone. But many times I did notice that the people around me, originally from Italy, would treat me a lot nicer if I tried to communicate with them in their language. I felt forced to learn a little Italian to properly communicate with the people. They would often get offended if I spoke to them in English without even trying to say it in Italian. I learned how to be empathetic in a situation like that because I understood that it is nice if a person visits a foreign country and at least tries to learn one of the most important aspects of their culture which to me is the language.

How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?

I would say that my program helped me tremendously as I was able to visit hospitals and museums related to my major. I was part of the Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Careggi (the biggest hospital in Florence) and I learned many aspects of the healthcare system abroad that are very different from the one of the United States. Studying abroad let me experience a different style of education and it helped me explore a side of my major that I had never been exposed to before. Anatomy and physiology is a rigorous course but being abroad taught me how to manage my time between fun and school. I was able to accomplish so much in a month it is impressive. I personally learned how to manage my money. I nurture my independence while gaining a new perspective of a different culture.

What was the most memorable moment of studying abroad?

As part of my study abroad course, my classmates and I were able to visit hospitals, museums and art galleries. Every day we had something new to do, from visiting a new city to eating at a new restaurant but my most memorable moment while studying abroad was the long nights studying for our final exam because many of my classmates, including me, decided to travel all over Italy instead of studying.

In what way do you feel your experience abroad has prepared you for your future career? (Think both tangible things like language acquisition and intangible like learning to work with people who are very different from you)

Being in a new place by myself was overwhelming, but it definitely gave me an understanding of the world around me. I was able to take in a new culture and learn how to adapt to it. Being a nurse goes beyond treating injuries, it is about interacting and getting to know the patients. My experience in Italy gave me a unique insight of what the European culture is. I was able to learn some key words related to my major just in case I ever come across someone in my future career that needs my help and only speaks Italian.

Would you recommend the program you went on, if so why?

I do recommend my study abroad program. My college offers a number of different programs to study abroad but they usually range from 10 to 14 days abroad. My program was one of the longest one in a short term semester. I was abroad for a whole month. My professor kept the same curriculum from back home but integrated some aspects of the Italian culture in it. I would attend school 3 times a week and I had the rest of the week to explore (and study). Even though Anatomy and Physiology was a tough course, my professor tried to make the class as interesting as possible. While abroad I had a great advisor, she was there for anything I needed her.

What advice do you have for students thinking about study abroad?

Don't ever limit yourself! If there is something I have learned in the past year it's that many times we are the ones to make excuses and limitations for the things we want to do. Don't be scared to get out of your comfort zone. It is amazing when you are abroad and you see how different life is when you are on your own. You see a side of you that you didn't even know was there. You get to learn about a new culture and bring it all back to share it with your loved ones. There are many resources that will help you if the issue is money. There are many scholarships available for students that want to study abroad.

Any additional comments or thoughts that you have about your study abroad experience

Studying abroad is the experience of a lifetime and I don't think I will ever be able to fully express how grateful and glad I am that I was able to study abroad. I am a first generation college student to study abroad and I am so happy I get to be an example to other students. I was able to make new friends, try new food and learn a new language. I loved every single minute abroad and I promise you won't regret it.

Author: Paola Rodriguez

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