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Reflection Before Graduation: What To Take From Study Abroad

Guest Blogger: Kenzie Pittman

With my Graduation nearing, I can’t help to think back at each semester as a student at U of I. One semester in particular that comes to mind is the Fall that I spent studying in Verona, Italy. Before my study abroad trip, I had never been out of the country. It was definitely scary, and was going to be a challenge taking, on a new language and culture in Italy.

What I wanted out of my study abroad experience, however, was a challenge. I wanted to try a new language, and expose myself to a totally new culture, and Italy was a beautiful place to do so. I remember being out in Verona practicing my Italian to the best of my ability. It was tough at times, but it made my learning experience that much better. I wanted to learn more about their culture, art, history, and that’s what the classes in my program provided me with. I took Italian, Art History, Painting, and Photography. The curriculum was a lot different than what I was used to at U of I. I hadn’t taken a painting or art class since I was in middle school, but I learned so much from my amazing instructors in all of my different classes. They were so qualified and so passionate about what they did, and it made me excited to be in class every single day. It was such a hands-on learning experience, because not only did we get to learn in the classroom, we got to learn out in the city of Verona and in other cities nearby. We would actually get to see the things we were learning about. The classes I took really opened up my eyes to the arts and my appreciation for them. There is so much history and beautiful architecture in Italy, and it was totally new information to learn and take in.


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As I look back, I cherish my time in Verona for many reasons, in addition to my classroom experiences. The challenges I faced made me stronger, and the people I met made my experience wonderful. My broader view of Italian culture and a completely new country was exhilarating, and I promised myself to cherish every day there. Since then, I stick to that motto even back on campus, and as a soon-to-be graduate. One of the greatest things I noticed while in Italy is that they live their lives with such happiness. They appreciate their friends and socialize for hours, just loving the company of their loved ones. My experience in Verona taught me to do that, and for that I am grateful. I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to live in Verona for a semester. That happiness doesn’t have to leave your study abroad experience.

It can be taken back with you and practiced in your everyday life.
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So as you think about studying abroad and what you want out of it, remember to not let it pass you by. Cherish every day, and take every day as an exciting learning experience.

Appreciate the company and the culture around you, and you will come back with the most rewarding experience of your life.

 

Technology Abroad: Put Down the Phone and Live!

Guest Blogger: Kenzie Pittman

I left for my semester abroad to Verona, Italy with my iPhone, but with no intention of using it.  I had no particular plan set up to make it cheaper to use, I simply turned off my data so as not to be charged and that was that.  I had it with me for the sole purpose of music, occasional photos, and in case of emergency on my flight to Europe.  I have friends who went abroad after me, and asked for my advice on what plan to get while abroad or what to do about their IPhone.  I simply suggested not to use it, to embrace what is around you, and to connect with people from home only on your laptop in the comfort of your residence abroad.

Technology is a key part of our society today; most of us use it daily.  Between texting on our iPhones, our social media accounts, email, etc. we are all engaged in our devices daily. But while abroad, I think this constant use needs to change.

I’ve seen many people study abroad since I have returned.  I have scrolled through countless Instagram photos, tweets, and Facebook posts. which are most likely from an iPhone.  I am not going to post about what people are doing wrong here; instead, I am going to post about what I did and what worked for me.

421600_10152090482680237_919353786_nI had an Italian phone that was ‘pay as you go’ and just a tiny little flip phone.  I had an Italian number, and the contact information of my resident director as well as the other girls in my program.  We were able to fill it with Euro and text each other, call each other, and for general safety.  This was all the contact I needed while out and about in Verona, or traveling.  My iPhone was left at home, so that I wouldn’t lose it and so that I didn’t use it.  There was really no need for it.  I found myself so engaged in my surroundings and truly appreciating what I was taking in around me.  Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity, why do I need to spend it on my Instagram looking to see how many likes I got on a picture of the Eiffel Tower?  People who study abroad are clearly leading a more interesting life than those in Champaign. They know that, you know that.  Instagram and social media accounts are not meant to be looked at daily when you are supposed to be having the time of your life.  The only time I was on my Facebook, etc. was when I was sitting in my apartment not doing anything.  That’s the time when you want to connect to friends, family, and even post your pictures to Facebook from your camera.  I did that, in addition to occasionally tweeting, but I didn’t ever do it unless I was in my apartment.  This made sure that I wasn’t focused on anything else but taking in my surroundings while I was exploring during my time abroad.  Yes, I wanted to show people my pictures so they could see what I was doing and for my own records.  But there is no need to do this on your phone while walking around.

Posting to social media and being engaged in your phone is definitely part of our society.  But when you go abroad, change that.  It’s liberating to actually just soak it all in, without showing anyone at the moment.  Then, when you get back to your apartment, host family, or dorm, you can show them to the people you cohabitate with!  It’s just all about enjoying what you’re doing at the time.  Social media, our iPhones, etc. distract us from what’s around us.  Studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to put the iPhone down and truly engage in your experience.

Study In Verona, Italy Next Summer!

Not sure how you’re going to spend next summer? What better way than to soak up some knowledge and culture in Verona, Italy? Verona, located in Northeast Italy, is a city of approximately 260,000 people and is well known for its flourishing economy, rich culture, and joy of living. The Study Abroad Office’s Verona Studies Summer Program is a 6-week term, during which students take 7 credit hours. There is a 4 credit hour required Italian language course and students have the option to pair that with a 3 credit hour art history course or a 3 credit hour photography course. Additionally, there is a possibility for students to intern at the annual summer opera festival, as well as the opportunity to volunteer elsewhere. The priority deadline to apply is January 15th, and the final deadline is February 15th. Don’t wait to check out this awesome program!

Visit the program website here: https://app.studyabroad.illinois.edu/index.cfm?FuseAction=Programs.ViewProgram&Program_ID=10052

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