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Julia Ho

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Nutrition Major, Chemistry Minor
Program: Istituto Lorenzo de Medici
Location: Florence, Italy
Term: Summer 2023


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
Ever since I was a little girl, it had always been my dream to study abroad and get the opportunity to travel to Europe. I have always been fascinated by history and I wanted to be able to see and experience this history in person. I chose to take an "Ancient Sources of Italian Cuisine" cooking class and a "Palaces of Florence" class at Istituto Lorenzo de Medici because I wanted to learn more about the art and culture of the city I was living in, but also develop more hands-on practical skills in my passion for cooking. I had always wanted to go to Italy for their culture, beautiful views, and food, and my experience just proved everything was true and more.


What did you learn about yourself?
Through my study abroad experience, I got to learn so many things about myself. First, I already knew of my love for traveling but this trip made me realize it even more as I got to see 7 beautiful countries during my program and after it ended. The places I got to see were surreal—most of them looked like a green screen in person and I couldn't believe my eyes when I was actually there. I realized that I am someone who loves experiences and could travel for the rest of my life if I could. Something else I learned about myself is how curious I actually am and eager to learn about different cultures and add to my own cultural traditions. During my time in Italy, I always asked questions to learn more about Italian culture and language just so I could expand my knowledge and be respectful to this beautiful country I was in. I fell in love with Florence's food, art, and the people's kindness.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
One of my favorite memories from the program was probably the last night in Florence when we all watched the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo, which are steps that overlook the whole city. A crowd formed a circle and people of all ages, even elderly and children, were dancing while a man played a guitar and everyone was clapping. I remember standing next to my new lifelong best friends that I had made on this study abroad trip and thinking to myself how grateful I was to have received this opportunity and meet such amazing people. Not only did I meet such wonderful people through my program, the people of Italy welcomed me to their country with open arms and I was touched by their kindness. It was genuinely a beautiful moment and I remember my face hurt because I couldn't stop smiling. Florence truly felt like my home even though I was only there for a short period of time.


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
To future students who face uncertainties when they are abroad: my best advice to you is to be okay with being uncomfortable. You are in a new country where a lot of things may seem unfamiliar to you at first, but you won't be able to fully experience their culture if you don't try new things and step out of your comfort zone. I know it is easier said then done, but I promise you it will be worth it and you will learn so much! And always ask questions!


How do you identify?
Student of color, First Generation College Student, $5,000 Summer Study Abroad Fellowship Recipient


Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?
As a first-generation Vietnamese-American student, my family and I never could have dreamed that one day that I would have the opportunity to study abroad. I would advise to those in a similar boat who want to study abroad but are scared of where to begin and finances, I would recommend looking at UNC Study Abroad office's great resources on scholarships that you can apply for and any questions you have about studying abroad. Without my $5,000 Summer Study Abroad Fellowship, my experience in Florence would not have been possible.