Name: Alyssa James
Hometown: Brooklyn, IA
Major(s): Kinesiology, Pre-PT
During the entire month of June 2017, I studied abroad in Italy. I went to school and lived in Florence, however, I was still able to travel to other wonderful locations. When I first began school at Iowa State University, I knew that I wanted to study abroad. I went to several Study Abroad Fairs, and even met with one of the many coordinators, to find a program that was right for me. Because my major is Kinesiology and Health, I was looking at the exchange programs for Australia. Australia and New Zealand are two of the most common places kinesiology students go. However, during the fall of my sophomore year, I began to get nervous about being away for an entire semester. I couldn’t help but think about all of the events I would miss: weddings, the Iowa State Fair, my brother’s final year of football, birthdays, and Thanksgiving. I began to brainstorm and research more locations and that is when I found the month in Italy program. I have always wanted to go to Italy mainly because pasta is my all time favorite food, and ice cream is a close second. I also have wanted to see Pompeii, the Colosseum, and the amazing architecture that decorates Italy’s landscape. Studying abroad during the month of June was a perfect time for myself. June is typically a slow month, which means I felt as if I did not miss out on too many things back home.
I went into this experience not knowing a single person who was attending this program. I went to the informational meeting and sat next to a girl who was sitting by herself, hoping to make a friend. After we got to talking, we decided that we would fly out of Chicago together, that way we wouldn’t have to fly alone. Before the meeting began, one of my friends from Orchesis 1 dance company here on campus came to the meeting! It turned out, the girl I flew with and my friend ended up rooming together in Italy, and we traveled together each weekend. I lived with another girl from Iowa State, a girl from North Carolina, and a girl from Boston. I really liked that I was able to meet new people from different states.
Because I studied abroad for the entire month, I was able to travel every weekend. I went to Rome, the Cinque Terre, Milan, Venice, Sorrento, Pompeii, Tuscany, and Pisa. Each place had a different look about them. Some places, such as Milan and Rome, reminded me of cities like New York in the United States. Others, such as the Cinque Terre and Sorrento, were so colorful and full of beautiful trees, flowers, and landscape. My favorite place was Florence; I was able to navigate it easily, as well as see so many beautiful palaces, the Duomo, and the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge on my way to class. I lived right across the street from the largest palace in Florence, Palazzo Pitti, and I was able to go inside and walk through the garden.
I went on the trip to the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii with a group called Bus2Alps. It is an organization where you can pay a certain amount of money and they will provide transportation, a place to stay, as well as fun activities for you to do. The leaders are all college aged students and they made the travel so much fun. While we were in Sorrento, 12 of us rented a speed boat to go cliff jumping. I am not sure how high the cliff edge was, but I felt as if I fell down for 30 seconds. I had never been cliff jumping before, but I absolutely loved it. We also swam in to some gratas, or caves. I am an outdoorsy person, which made this trip one of my favorites. The water was so clear and the nature was absolutely beautiful. It was also nice to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city. This was the last weekend trip I went on and I went with one of my roommates and my friend from Orchesis 1. We ended up hanging out with 4 other people from Iowa State! I had never met them before studying abroad. I find it so amazing that I would not have met them, had we all not studied abroad in June.
Studying abroad was very important to me because I feel as if we should travel as much as we can while we are young, before we have to have “grown-up” jobs. I find traveling important, as it helps to open your eyes to see how much Americans have compared to others. My apartment in Italy had no air conditioning, and with the temperatures as high as they were, we were hot! We had four fans, one for each of us, that we would sleep next to each night. We also lived on the 4th floor of the building, which had no elevators. I had to carry my suitcase, carry-on, and backpack up four flights of steep stairs. That was a challenge. Florence also had very tiny roads and sidewalks. You had to really pay attention because the cars and vespas would hit you, or you would get yelled at by Italians. However, I did enjoy walking everywhere I went. It was always beautiful outside and my furthest walk was about 20 minutes. Walking around Florence was very unique because the streets are all cobblestone and the buildings are made from different types of stones. It was also interesting to see all of the tourists. Because I was there for a month, I felt as if I was a resident, rather than a tourist.
Being abroad is something I think all students should experience. It helped me to create more friends, be more outgoing, and be able to see things I could have only dreamed of seeing, if it weren’t for Iowa State’s amazing program. I was able to see the Duomo of Milan and Florence, take a gondola ride in Venice, see the Trevi Fountain, Fountain of Four Seasons, the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum in Rome, the Pompeii ruins, all 5 villages that made up the Cinque Terre, and so much more! I was also able to eat the tastiest foods I have ever eaten. I had pizza, pasta, calamari (squid), veal (baby cow), calzones, various Italian desserts, and, of course, gelato.
Italy was unique because all of palaces were the original but restored. Inside every palace was a museum of artifacts that belonged to the family that owned the palace. I was enrolled in a class called “Palaces of Florence” and I was able to learn all about the palace, inside and out, as well as visit them. To me, it was an interesting experience because i would not have been able to go inside each palace if it weren’t for the class. Also through the school, I was able to attend a pasta making event where we learned all about how pasta was made, took a boat ride down the Arno River, learned how to paint with fresco, as well as went on two different weekend trips!
Something that i did not know upon arriving was that the first Sunday of the month, you are able to get inside museums, Duomos, or palaces for free. We had the opportunity to go to the Uffizi gallery for free. Inside were many beautiful paintings, including the famous painting of Venus. The museum was huge and we did not have enough time to explore it all. We also had the chance to see the original statue of David, as he is in a museum in Florence. I was impressed by his incredible size and was in awe of how someone could turn a large piece of stone into something so miraculous. I went on a wine tour in Tuscany where I was able to try various types of wine, as well as buy a bottle! In Florence, my friends and I went to a small place near our apartment where they had small fish “kiss” our feet. This is something that can only be done in another country and it felt as if there were tiny vibrating fish touching my feet. Afterwards, our feet were so soft. It was much needed after walking around Florence for an entire month. Finally, one night, at 1am, my roommate and I met up with another friend and looked for a secret bakery. Secret bakeries make the baked goods for stores to sell. If you go to the bakery while they are baking, they will give you something for only one euro! We each got a chocolate croissant.
If I wrote about everything I did during the entire month, I would have written a book! My goal was to do as much as I possibly could, because I did not want to have any regrets when I came back. I wanted more “remember whens” than “what ifs” or “I wish I would’ve done/went…”. If anyone has any questions or would like advice, please feel free to contact me! I would love to share more about my experience. Ciao!