Undergraduate institution: University of California, Santa Cruz
Undergraduate major and minor: European History
What have you been up to since attending Umbra?
After leaving Umbra, I have completed my degree and have been working as a Data Analyst using my knowledge of the Italian language to translate and research transit information for a mapping service. Honestly, I never would have thought that my experiences in Italy would have given me such a great opportunity right out of college!
Has studying abroad impacted your life (both personally and professionally)? If so, how?
Studying abroad changed my life in ways I never expected. When I left for Italy, I was anxious about the challenges I would face with learning a new language. Coupled with the fear of being far from home and away from my loved ones, I wasn’t sure how I would feel after I got there. Making the choice to study abroad was an easy decision, but actually committing and jumping into the unknown is another story. Through studying abroad, I became the person I always wanted to be. Going to school at Università per Stranieri and Università degli Studi di Perugia let me experience Italy in a more genuine way. I could learn the language along with many other foreigners and my homework was to go out and practice speaking with Italians! I am very thankful for that opportunity because I was so worried about always being on the outside of everything with the language barrier but, from what the people I encountered and befriended taught me, the best thing you can do for yourself is try. I worked hard the first semester, practiced speaking with new people and putting myself out of my comfort zone and by the second semester, I was able to take classes at the Italian university. I look back on those experiences and am very proud of myself. My Italian had improved so much that I was able to take oral exams in history and literature. Today, I am far more confident and self-reliant than I ever thought I would be. My Nonna always used to say that the women in our family need to go to Italy to find themselves and I definitely did. So yeah, I would say that it was pretty amazing!
Have your courses at Umbra helped you prepare for your future? If so, how?
While I did not take classes at Umbra Institute proper, I was given so much support and opportunities from everyone on the staff. I was included in all of the Umbra events and became friends with many of the students that took classes there. Whenever I was struggling or confused with something with my classes or more personal matters, there was always someone there that would go over and beyond to help me. When I was studying abroad, I felt like I should not need to ask for help. It was the first time I was so far away from home, and let me tell you, I certainly convinced myself that I was an “adult”. But in reality, I was no more than an anxious “12 year old” that was still learning along the way. The help I got from Umbra taught me that I don’t have to pretend like I always have everything figured out and that’s okay.
Are you still in touch with the friends you made in Perugia?
Absolutely! I made some of the closest friends I have ever known in Perugia. I was so lucky to get to live with such amazing and genuine girls that I can hardly still believe it. While we are all off in different directions now, the connection we made is still just as strong. One is off on an adventure in China (because she is the literal master linguist), another is back in Italy working and being an all-around goddess, another is working hard as an archivist technician, another is pursuing higher education in Israel, and the last is helping high school students get into their dream schools so that they too can one day study abroad! So I guess I would say that now we are a pretty global group.
I made many friends from Italy and all around the world and keep in touch with them as often as I can! Though the time change makes it harder (for instance it was my turn to Skype at 1 am because of a 10-hour time difference) but it is totally worth it!! The friends I made along the way are some of the best people I have ever known! I only wish we were all still together going out for aperitivo and searching to find the best cafe al ginseng.
What is one piece of advice you would give to prospective students thinking of studying abroad?
I would say not to worry too much about what you should or should not be doing or experiencing. Studying abroad is really a once in a life time opportunity and it goes by way too fast! I would also say that the idea you have of what it will be like will pale in comparison to what actually is. Just jump in with both feet and don’t be afraid to stumble a little bit. It’s totally worth is. (Did I mention how fast it goes? TOO FAST!)
What is one piece of advice you would give to students studying abroad (during or after their experience)?
If you are lucky to still be in Italy now, I would say try not to think about how many days you have left until you return home. From my experience, it only makes the days go by faster and at times, you can forget that you are still there soaking up Italy. Home will always be waiting across the pond.