With Winter 2020 Study Abroad interest meetings currently taking place and application deadlines soon approaching, I thought that I would take the chance to share my experience studying abroad on the LING/ENGL Italy program this past winter. As one of thirty-one students who were given this amazing opportunity, I was able to see sights that pictures cannot do justice (even though the thousands of pictures on my Camera Roll would prove otherwise), eat authentic pasta, pizza, and gelato that even my favorite Italian restaurant could not match, and soak it all in with a group of people that I likely would not have met or even passed by on my daily walk through the Green to class.
I had gone on numerous family vacations out of the country to places like Aruba, St. Martin, and Cancun, but traveling to Europe was always on my bucket list. Fortunately, I knew that I wanted to study abroad while in college and looked into Delaware’s winter study abroad program to help me meet this goal. While our almost two-month long winter break can drag and literally make you go stir crazy (I still have flashbacks to freshman year when I went to the mall every day, found random trips to the grocery store entertaining, picked my brother up at school just to get out of the house, and baked enough cookies and brownies to feed an army), winter break offers the perfect opportunity to travel, earn a few credits, and delight in the wonders of a brand new country.
Each program is different, but I found mine to be especially rewarding. Whereas some groups stay with host families and other groups stay on college campuses or in hostels, we bounced around from city to city and hotel to hotel. The constant hustle and bustle kept the trip exciting, with each transfer introducing us to a new culture and new way of living. We started in Sorrento, made our way to Rome, Siena, Verona, and Florence, and then returned back to Rome for our departure. Interlaced within these bigger cities, we took excursions to Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Capri, Naples, Caserta, Monte Cassino, Orvieto, Venice, San Gimignano, and Pisa. We made our own pizzas, took gondola rides, went on boat and ferry rides, saw a donkey, chilled on the beach, climbed towers, tossed coins, squeezed underground, and watched sunsets; clearly, I could go on for hours about each day’s adventure and everything that I did and saw, but I’ll spare you.
To conclude my sales pitch, I now leave you with some of the hidden gems that I picked up on my time spent last month in bella Italia:
Fifty pounds is a lot less than you would think, and getting rid of sixteen pounds in the airport is in no way possible.
You’ll likely only pay attention to the first two movies that you watch on an eight-hour plane ride.
When you see rocket on a menu, it actually refers to arugula.
Many Italian hotels require you to hand in your key when leaving the hotel and pick it up at the front desk upon returning.
Italian ZARA tops any American ZARA.
Bread and oil are a must before every meal.
Showers in Italy only have half of the shower door, leaving a flood of water on the bathroom floor.
Their version of hot chocolate is literally chocolate soup…not complaining about it though!
Italian gyms are not a thing.
Good pasta needs nothing but tomato sauce.
When scrunched, good leather actually goes back in place.
Pineapple juice will taste like an actual pineapple as opposed to the stuff you get in a can.
Falling asleep on the bus may be the best sleep you’ll ever get.
A gondola ride typically takes less than the advertised thirty minutes.
The Lime and Pink Pepper Piu Gusto chips are the best.
The train makes two stops in Florence – do not freak out if are not able to get off at the first stop.
Look for gelato that is not mounded and does not have a lot of artificial colors – this is the authentic stuff.
Pork is everywhere.
Pompeii has a brothel complete with a stone bed.
To get to the main road in Siena, do not go over a sketchy bridge.
Soccer is life. It’s harder to get into a Roman soccer game than it is to get on a plane home.
Italian Coca-Cola tastes so much better than the American kind.
When taking a picture at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the person taking the picture should move around to get the right angle as opposed to the person posing.
There is indeed McDonald’s in Italy…and they do have Big Macs.
Italian outlets are circular and only contain two prongs, meaning that adaptors are a must.
Mercedes makes the best coach buses.
For guys, adding a scarf to any outfit will instantly make you look more Italian.
There is nothing better than stracciatella gelato.
Pinocchio is everywhere!
Italian dogs are gorgeous and oh-so-well behaved, while I cannot say the same about the pigeons.
Chicken parmesan and spaghetti and meatballs do not exist.
Leggings and sweatpants are not a thing.
Hopefully, what my laundry list of random facts illustrates is that going abroad is an experience that seeing pictures, reading books, and watching videos cannot emulate. To truly take away all that I have and all that is possible, you must immerse yourself in the country and the culture. I can 100% say that anyone looking into studying abroad should take full advantage of Delaware’s winter session and the opportunities that it provides. I am so grateful to have been given the chance to study abroad in Italy, somewhere that I only once dreamed of going. In just thirty days, I was able to gain thirty new friends, eat all that I could, see all that I could, and make memories that will last me a lifetime, but that’s not to say that I haven’t already started planning my return to the beautiful country that is Italy. Andiamo!