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Marlee Greene

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Major: Advertising and Public Relations Minor: Exercise and Sports Science; Health and Society
Program: UNC in Firenze
Location: Florence, Italy
Term: Spring 2020


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I chose to study abroad because I have always had a sense of adventure when it comes to travel, seeing new places, meeting new people, and having new experiences. Even though I was on the fence about studying abroad for an entire semester, once I discovered UNC’s programs and how they provided the same classes I would be taking on the UNC campus, I never looked back. Studying abroad was also something that my best friend and I had talked about doing together during our entire freshman year. Each of us had a yearning to travel and she had some experience traveling in Europe before, so we thought we should go for it! We had taken several road trips together in and around the U.S., so we could not think of anything better than being in another country and traveling to new places each week, exploring, meeting new people and soaking up other cultures. Even now, I can't think of anything I’d rather be doing. Both of us wanted to be in Europe. We had talked to other people who had studied abroad and knew we wanted to be in a place where we would have fairly easy access to safely and inexpensively travel to the other parts of Europe. Everyone continued to tell us that Florence, Italy was amazing and offered everything that we were looking for in our experience. As it turns out, Florence and the UNC in Firenze program was the perfect match for us. Florence did not disappoint! It was breathtakingly beautiful and offered a central city location in Europe that allowed us to easily travel to see so many other countries. We lived right in the heart of the most spectacular Italian architecture, art, and city charm ever imaginable. It was the most spectacular time of my life.


What did you learn about yourself?
My study abroad experience allowed me to grow personally in so many ways. It was and still is one of the most eye-opening experiences in my life thus far. Coming in as a freshman to UNC, I was undecided on a major. I truly felt like I would eventually major in a science-related field, so I spent all of my freshman year and even the fall of my sophomore year checking off sciences. After three semesters of this, I knew deep down my heart was not in it. Having the option for studying abroad through UNC, was a perfect way for me to explore other classes in fields that I had been considering as a career. At UNC in Firenze I had the opportunity to explore my first MEJO classes. While they may have been a little different by having them in Italy with Italian professors, I knew immediately, I had found a major that suited me and what I wanted to spend the rest of my time at UNC pursuing and doing for a career. My experience in Italy and traveling to other parts of Europe really solidified my yearning for so much more. I realized that I could make a major and a career out of my love for travel, experiences, writing and sharing all of that with others. Without my study abroad experience, I don’t know if I would have ever had the courage to make such a major change in direction for my life. I can wholeheartedly thank my study abroad experience for that. I was not only introduced to classes in a fresh major, but way of thinking about the world, and opportunities completely changed. At this point in my life, I see myself going back overseas one day and to work for a travel agency or internationally for some kind of social media, marketing/public relations firm. If I had never taken the leap to study abroad I don't know if I ever would have found my true calling for a major here at UNC and career later in life.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
This is a really tough question because I have a million favorite memories from my time with the UNC in Firenze experience. If I had to choose just one, it would honestly be my memory of arriving on the first day in Florence. There is no way to describe in words the feeling that consumed me the second I stepped off the plane. I have never experienced such a surreal feeling in my life. I remember so vividly taking the taxi from the Florence airport to my apartment located literally right beside the Piazza del Duomo in the city center of Florence, Italy. My face was literally pressed against the window as the taxi drove further and further into the city. Everywhere there were sights I had never seen or experienced before. I felt overwhelmed in emotion and gratitude for the opportunity to be there. It only got better once I arrived at my apartment located on the fifth floor with a view overlooking the Piazza del Duomo. My bedroom window literally looked directly out onto the plaza. It was a view that I immediately knew would never get old! The entire day was just pure perfection. From the apartment view, to unpacking as quickly as possible, getting to know my new roommates, and then dinner at the most amazing restaurant. I was beyond excited about what Florence had in store for me. I knew that if it was anything like my first few hours, then I was in for the experience of a lifetime. And there wasn’t one day that it disappointed me.


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
My advice for future students who may face uncertainties while they are abroad is to remember there is a reason you are where you are and you never know what is waiting for you don’t allow yourself to get out of your comfort zone and embrace everything your study abroad experience has to offer. Remember that living abroad comes with its daily challenges and rewards. Embrace them both. I studied abroad in Spring 2020 in Florence, Italy. Yes, I was in Italy when the coronavirus hit the Lombardy region. Within weeks, all of us were sent home and robbed of our experience. I left Florence completely broken-hearted for a million reasons. I had been there only a month but had already grown close with friends and my Italian professors. Thankfully, I had utilized my weeks before classes began to travel to many other parts of Europe, but there are so many places that I missed. Having my time abroad cut short, makes me that much more determined to get back as soon as I can. So, my advice if you go abroad is to take advantage of as much as possible while you are there. I regret not taking advantage of small things as simple as using my time in between class to just "get lost" in Florence and explore new areas. You never know what life is going to throw at you and how your situation may change in a split second, so I say trust yourself and trust the process of your time abroad. There is a reason you decided to go in the first place. Embrace and remember that in times of uncertainty.