It is me again. Here to talk about a beautiful country called Italy. The “UA Abroad: Following Shakespeare Through Italy” program has been an especially unique experience. As opposed to most study abroad programs that remain in one city for one or several months, we moved into a new hotel or hostel each week and even took several day trips on free weekends. Because of this, I never quite had time for homesickness. The excitement of a new city with different food, people, art, and shopping was exhilarating, and made the trip move faster with each new spot. As soon as we started to get the hang of one area, we would be on a train to the next. Though this may sound exhausting (and trust me, walking a mile to the train station on cobblestone streets with all your luggage does not exactly fit anyones definition of, “fun”), the changes in scenery gave us a more inclusive perspective of Italy, and allowed each individual to explore their own interests. Everyone had their favorite spot —The beach bums loved Lido and Sicily, the shoppers enjoyed Rome, and the artists loved Florence. But looking back, I think we each found our niche in all the cities we visited.
I loved that the program was designed to take us to the touristy spots at the best possible times, while also leaving us with ample amounts of free time to explore our unique interests on our own. Though managing classes and travel can certainly seem difficult, if you prepare ahead of time and work with your professor, you should have no problem balancing school and adventure. Work hard before your departure so you can fully immerse yourself in the culture you are visiting, and do not be afraid to explore your own personal passions and interests. Even in our small group, there was always someone willing to explore with me.
Our tiny group consisted of 11 students, 1 professor, and 1 on-site coordinator from a study abroad agency. Our size gave us more opportunities to hang out as a group and form deeper relationships than may have been available in a larger group of students. Though none of us knew each other before this program, we quickly formed friendships not only with one another, but our professor and coordinator, as well. As happens with any group of people, we sometimes disagreed about what we wanted to do or who owed what at dinner (a check is typically not split in Italian restaurants, so 11 meals can be hard to distinguish), but in the end, I like to think that we all have 10 new friends to look for on campus once we are home. Only the 13 of us followed Shakespeare through Italy in July of 2018, and there is something magical about that connection that will stay with me forever.