About My Study Abroad Program
Major/Minor: Psychology and Human Organizational Leadership and Development
Program: LDM Florence - Istituto Lorenzo de'Medici
Location: Florence, Italy
Term: Summer 2022
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I had known I wanted to study abroad in collegerr since I was a freshman in high school. My grandfather would take my older sister and I on an annual trip over the summer since we were six and four. Not only were these extravagant get aways a means to spend time with our grandparents, I was introduced to the world outside the suburban bubble of Cary, North Carolina. Traveling with a man who insisted that we try a new food every day on these annual trips, I learned to embrace new experiences and environments, something I knew I wanted to bring into my education as well. Due to my academic restrictions, I found selecting a program extremely difficult. I spent countless hours scrolling through university approved programs, as well as looking with partner programs such as API. Finally, with the help of Ben Briggs I discovered LDM - Istituto Lorenzo de’Medici, out of Florence, Italy. Not only did it include Psychology courses that were applicable to my major, got me back in time to participate in the Weeks of Welcome events for UNC, and included planned excursions to the cities of Italy; as an arts school LDM had unique creative classes, unavailable at UNC, that I knew would make my study abroad experience truly special.
What did you learn about yourself?
The study abroad experience is all about learning. About the country, the community, the culture, the class, but most notably oneself. I learned much about myself over the course of 9 weeks. First, I am more capable than I have led myself to believe. I know my resources, I know how to use them, and just because something is new does not mean I am unable to do it. It only takes a little bit of courage. Secondly, I need to slow down. I do not need to constantly be looking towards my next adventure. What am I going to do this afternoon? Where am I going this weekend? It is okay to sit an enjoy the moment. Listen to the birds, smell the roses. I know it sounds clique, but the study abroad experience, like college life in general, goes by in a blink of an eye. Because of my inclination to skip ahead to the next destination, I missed a lot of events in my resident city of Florence. I am striving this semester to enjoy the little moments and staying in the present. Thirdly, my anxiety is both an obstacle and a tool. Before traveling abroad, I experienced a lot of travel anxiety. Either about missing a flight or making it to an event on time. However, this experience thought me that while anxiety is useful in forming back up plans for my back up plans, it can also get in the way of participating in once in a lifetime experiences. Everyone’s concerns traveling and/or trying new things is different. I learned where my limits were and when my anxiety was helpful or hurtful to my own personal experiences.
What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
My study abroad experience was truly the best two months of my life. I visited over 20 Italian towns and cities, met the locals, did a Tuscan wine tasting tour, swam in the crystal-clear waters off the coast of Amalfi, and made thousands of unforgettable memories. It is impossible to pick a favorite experience. That being said, one in particular does stand out. I traveled to Lake Como and Milan with other UNC students, we rented a 16-person lake house in Varenna (a town on Lake Como) for 1 night, then continued down to Milan the next day. While in Milan, I got separated from the group. At first, I was very on edge walking around alone in a large city I had never been to before, however, as I strolled through the streets and took in the city, I began to fall into a rhythm. I found my way to the sites I wanted to visit and even found a couple along the way that I had never heard of but were full of history and beauty. It was my first experience traveling alone, and I loved it. The realization that I was capable and ready set the pace for the rest of my experience abroad. I found that in some instances I preferred to travel alone because I could set my own pace and make quick decisions as I went. It may not be one of my more glamorous trips abroad, but I learned much about myself wandering the streets of Milan and it still holds a special place as one of my fondest memories.
What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
Know everything is going to turn out okay. This was my own personal mantra when things went awry in Italy. Sometimes you miss a train, sometimes you get stuck in a city, sometimes flights get cancelled. What is important to know is that you have a support system. Friends, family, even the university are all resources to reach out to when uncertainties arise. Furthermore, you can reach out to the embassy, the consulate, the host institution. You will never be alone. You will have help. Do not be afraid to ask for it. Have confidence in yourself, in your peers. Know that you are capable. Everything is going to turn out okay.