The world is my classroom: study abroad to Italy

This article is part of the Summer Sojourns 2018 series highlighting the adventures of FIU students. In early May, 18 students enrolled in the Honors College, along with Professor John Bailly and a teaching assistant, traveled to Italy for a month Junior Anna Tuttle shares her experience of the trip.

As a young girl, I was an avid reader of Roman mythology. Feeling like my uneventful 6th grade-life left much to be desired, I would sneak into the dusty pages of a book and travel to a world where boys were raised by wolves and a group of dramatic gods ruled the world from a lofty mountain summit. Years later, as I sat in a study abroad info session hosted by the FIU Honors College, my love for Roman history and mythology was rekindled. What would it be like to visit the landmarks from the stories I read as a child and to step where great leaders like Julius Caesar and Hadrian walked only a few thousand years ago? Less than a week later, I signed up to go abroad in the summer of 2018 to Italy: the home of the Roman Empire, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Renaissance.

One of my biggest learning experiences in preparation for study abroad was learning to pack light. Although our class was a month long, we were required to fit all our belongings into a 45-liter backpack. This allowed for easy movement through crowded train stations, across cobblestone roads, and up flights of stairs. The knowledge that I can survive more than a month away from home with so few possessions has radically changed my view of material things and their value. Traveling light allowed our class of 20 to forge new paths and experience new things that I wouldn’t trade for anything, especially not a few extra items of clothing.

FIU students met with the owners (in aprons) of a shop in Cinque Terre, Italy. Pictured from left, teaching assistant Vicky Atencio, Arina Polyanskaya, Yahnell Judah and Anna Tuttle. Photo by John William Bailly

As a Hospitality Management student, I was excited to travel and experience the hospitality of another culture. I made connections with hospitality business owners all over Italy: from our apartment host in Rome, to a gelato-shop owner in Florence, to a father-and-son-duo who own a deli and a gelato shop in Corniglia, one of the five historical towns of Cinque Terre. Seeing ordinary people living their lives on the other side of the world, thousands of miles from the world that I identify with, brought a new perspective to my life and made me realize how big the world really is. I am more inspired now than ever to travel, and my first experience studying abroad has taught me that the furthest part of the globe is within reach.

My study abroad experience was life-changing because I will never think of the world the same way again. Instead of studying history, we were living it. I will never forget the lessons we learned because instead of hearing about the tragedy in Pompeii, we walked its streets. Instead of learning about the history of the Colosseum or the Via Sacra, we touched them. Being present in such historically important places brought new life to the stories I had read as a child, and reinforced the knowledge that the events of the past were not so long ago, and happened to people just like us.

I believe every student should pursue the study abroad experience because it will teach you to travel the world with the purpose of learning and discovering its hidden truths, rather than simply as a tourist looking for the perfect picture to share. Taking a class in another country may seem like a daunting and expensive feat, but I encourage my fellow students to pursue it regardless, and research the countless opportunities that FIU provides for scholarships and other financial aid. The lessons that I learned while traveling abroad with a group of classmates are priceless, and surpasses anything that you could ever learn from a textbook.