Ciao, everyone! Did you know that in Venice you use the canals as your main source of daily travel? You can experience the world and grow academically when studying abroad. Venice would be a great place to start.
“I’ve been bitten by the abroad bug. I’m not sure if there is a cure other than to go again!” – Ryan Shields referring to his 2015 Florence, Italy study abroad trip. As an intern of the International Program, I conducted an interview with Shields about his experiences to give students an inside look at studying abroad.
- What is your major? I’ll be receiving my B.F.A. in New Media with a concentration in video and motion media.
- Which cities did you visit? We went to amazing places in Italy including Cinque Terre, Siena, Pisa, Lucca, and Rome.
Students who studied academically and culturally through the trip enhanced their understanding of global connections and made themselves more well-rounded individuals.
- What was the most intriguing thing you learned about the Italian culture? The pace of things in Italy is very relaxed. In the States, everything we do is rushed, but in Italy they just don’t have that stress of a time constrained life-style.
- What was the coolest thing you learned overall? Researching Michelangelo and Caravaggio turned out to be amazing. These two men are my favorite Italian artists from the Renaissance & Baroque periods because they both led incredible lives in very different ways.
- Have your experiences affected your career path? I think I will be more prepared to travel for work, if it is required of me. I can feel comfortable going to a foreign country to carry out a task.
- How has this affected you academically overall? I use a large amount of the videos and photographs I took in Italy for my current projects. They became a good conversation starter with my professors and peers. Additionally, I now have an abroad experience to add to my resume!
The fresh and exciting environment that Shields was placed into helped him absorb knowledge. Surrounded by new sounds, sights, and people stimulated an engaged learning experience.
- Describe the environments, rooms, and people that you lived with on the trip. The room that I stayed in had tall ceilings with a painted mural. There was a beautiful chandelier hanging from the middle as well. The room was breathtaking and only a small part of the whole apartment. The people I lived with grew to be my friends. I stayed with seven people, five of which I had not known previously. We worked together as a tight knit group to adapt to the Italian lifestyle.
- Recount your favorite memory from studying abroad. My favorite memory is probably doing my schoolwork at the “shoreshack.” It was a picturesque Panini and smoothie shop along the Arno River in the middle of Florence.
- How were your foreign language skills effected by your experience? I started practicing basic Italian right after I got accepted into the program. It seemed to me that the Italians genuinely appreciated the effort! Molto bene!
- Describe your experience with locals. I found that the best way to find the good food spots in each town is by speaking to the locals! In my experience, everyone I encountered was friendly and helpful. They may laugh at your broken Italian, but they will be quick to help point you in the right direction!
While studying abroad opportunities are quite academic, students also go on adventures and have mentally strengthening experiences.
- What was your biggest obstacle on the trip? The biggest obstacle from my perspective was being away from my bike and drums. I did not realize how relaxing these hobbies were to me until I was without them. I finished George R. R. Martin’s Dance With Dragons, and Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents while I was there though. So really, the challenge did not involve Italy necessarily; it was more about how to spend my free time without two of my main hobbies.
- What were the most fun activities you experienced? Not including the hike in Cinque Terre, which would top the list usually:
#3: Riding bikes on Lucca’s walls. Lucca is a Tuscan town that is still surrounded by medieval style walls. These walls were built particularly wide to make it difficult for archers to accurately fire arrows inside the city. We rented bikes and rode the perimeter of the city on top of these walls to view the hilly Tuscan countryside.
#2: Staying in Florence. We became so familiar with Florence that it truly felt like home. My roommates and I would buy groceries in shifts and take turns cooking meals. It was a great showing of teamwork between new friends in an amazing foreign city.
#1: Venice. The three days that we spent in Venice were nothing short of magical. The entire transportation system in Venice is comprised of boats. There is something very special about the general mood in Venice because of this. Our trip’s purpose was to explore the world of photography and shooting from boats became my favorite activity.
- Once you were on the trip, was there anything you wished you would have done before you left for the trip? I wished I wouldn’t have packed so many clothes, and I should have brought my bike. Italy is definitely a biking culture. I would have loved to have my own with me instead of renting one!
- Why did you go on the trip? I was drawn to the opportunity of studying Italian Renaissance and Baroque art in Italy. I believe that no artist on the planet could be blind to the influence of Florentine and Roman art of this period. I also knew that spending a month in Italy would expand my comfort zone. If one can thrive in a country with a different tongue, one can thrive anywhere.
15. Why do you think others should study abroad? Studying abroad gives students the ability to look at their majors with new insight. The opportunity to be immersed in other cultures in such an intimate way is rare. Once a person has more obligations (like mortgages, kids…etc.), it will be harder to take part in an excursion of this magnitude. Do it now while it’s the easiest it will ever be!
Blog post written by: Chrissy Bohlmann