A Semester Abroad in Italy

This past semester, I studied abroad in Siena, Italy, a small city in the heart of Tuscany. My experience is something I will never forget. I had the opportunity to live with a local Sienese family: Claudio, the father; Claudia, the mother; Gabriella, the grandmother; and Tomasso, the son. None of the family spoke English, and when I arrived, I did not speak Italian. But thanks to Google Translate, we were able to learn to communicate quickly.

One of my favorite parts of living with them was our nightly dinners together. At 8:30 sharp, we would sit around the table and eat. Usually, we would start with pasta as the first course, alongside other side dishes such as pizza and other appetizers. Then, we would have our second course, which consisted of some kind of meat. Finally, we would enjoy fruit or dessert. I will miss these dinners the most. 

My program, Siena International Study (SIS), had a unique schooling system that taught refugees, mainly from Pakistan. I was able to interact and form relationships with people from all around the world who live lives that are vastly different than mine. I learned about their culture and background through the time we spent sharing stories with each other. Learning about new cultures broadened my horizons and gave me new perspectives on the world. 

The people I met during this experience were some of the kindest people I have ever interacted with. One day, I ran into Jawad, a student from Pakistan, while walking around town, and he insisted that we eat lunch together. He took me out and paid for my meal, despite having very little money himself. I will always remember this act of selflessness and fellowship. 

My experience engaging with the Pakistani refugees in our group opened my eyes because while I was in Italy to enjoy the culture and casually learn the language, they were there because they needed to learn Italian in order to work in Italy. It was interesting and humbling to study with them because our reasons for learning the language were so different, yet we were still united over the experience. 

Two of my favorite experiences were going to Munich, Germany for Springfest and Dublin for St. Patrick's Day. These trips allowed me to immerse myself in different cultures, celebrate new holidays, and make unforgettable memories with friends. 

Reflecting on my study abroad experience, I realize how fortunate I was to have the opportunity to live in Siena and explore Europe. Engaging with locals, forging friendships with people from diverse backgrounds, and adapting to a new way of life pushed me beyond my comfort zone, fostering personal growth and broadening my perspective.

This experience lit a fire inside of me and inspired a new path for what I want to do with my future. While I’m young and still have little responsibility, this trip made me realize that now is the time to see and explore. Now, I have a deeper appreciation for the importance of cultural exchange and understanding. 

While my time in Siena, Italy, may have ended, the memories, lessons, and friendships I gained will stay with me forever, shaping my future endeavors and enriching my outlook on life.