Laura Heppell has been fascinated with Italy ever since she saw a “silly Italian movie” as a child. After studying Italian in high school and college, the logical thing to do was to live and study in “la dolce Italia”. “I was looking into some programs in Florence, but I’m really glad I ended up in Perugia. Despite the fact that I am from Los Angeles, I really don’t like big cities. Perugia is the perfect size,” says Heppell, who has now been living in Perugia for almost a year.
“This is the first time I have ever been abroad, and it definitely made me more confident and open to new experiences, especially after being at the University for Foreigners (Universita per Stranieri),” says Heppell, who arrived in Perugia in the fall of 2014. Heppell decided to perfect her Italian and attend courses at Stranieri during the spring semester of 2015. “It definitely improved my Italian, but I feel like interacting and talking to the people of Perugia has helped even more. For example, I volunteered at Viva, an organization for autistic people. Communicating was difficult, but Umbra gave me an opportunity to engage with the community.”
“Before coming to Perugia, I had never even heard of it. In Florence or Rome, people just speak English to you a lot more, something I really didn’t want. There are so many people like you there, you don’t get the full study abroad experience. You would have to try a lot harder to get into the community, which in Perugia happened quite smoothly”.
Studying abroad in Perugia has not only improved Heppell’s Italian, it has changed her on a personal level as well: “I can honestly say I have become a more confident, open person. I’m not looking forward to going home; I am going to miss speaking Italian every day. If someone were to offer me my dream job here, I’d cancel my flight in a heartbeat! It has been a great experience.”