Alumni Spotlight: Avery Morrison


Avery, a third year at UVA majoring in Biology and Italian, hopes to pursue a career in medicine and eventually to be a practicing doctor in Italy. She currently is involved with orthopedic research, plays for the flute ensemble, and manages events at Old Cabell Hall at UVA.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose the Siena, Italy summer program because I believe it came with the entire package. From the enchanting small Medieval town to the authentic experiences a smaller city and program could offer, I knew I could not go wrong. Siena, unlike in other larger cities, allows you to really practice your Italian, while forming relationships with the locals.

It is also a much safer city, so enjoying the night life never made me feel unsafe. I really wanted a program that would allow me to assimilate into the Italian culture, and Siena did that perfectly.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Our resident director, Elena, was amazing about helping out with anything and everything that we needed on the trip. She organized movie nights, workout classes, beach trips, wine tastings, and more, and she was always there for anyone that needed extra support, whether it be shadowing a dentist or just a catching up over coffee.

CET, in general, was amazing about contacting us with our homestay information, flight information, helping pick us up from the airport, and answering any questions we had (which were endless).

We had to organize our free time, whether that be a trip to Capri or Bellagio, but no complaints here. If we had trouble with anything, we had copious amounts of resources to turn to.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Meet the locals. Get out of the tight knit group of students, and really put yourself out there. Strike up a conversation wherever you go because chances are, the people you meet will be extremely friendly and passionate. I learned so much from the people I met over there, and mostly by accident, but those connections you make abroad add richness to your experience.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

An average day can vary from 3 hours of class to 5 with a break in between for lunch. Most of the classes have 'una pausa' in the middle so you can go get an espresso or croissant, which I highly recommend getting. Then normally we would stroll the city streets, popping into shops or going for a run around the fortress before dinner at 8 with our host mom, which was always 5 courses of pure bliss.

After dinner and getting homework done, we would go out on the piazza and sit with a bottle of wine and catch up or meet new people. The piazza at night is a very special place, where even all the locals go to gather and just be together and enjoy life. There really is no where else like it.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was not knowing anyone, and therefore being in a foreign country alone. This soon quickly changed as I became very close with the two girls who were staying in my homestay, and everyone else on the program. I forgot that everyone was going to be afraid of a completely foreign experience, but I think that fear is what brought us together so quickly.

Being abroad forces you out of your comfort zone so that you become more open to foreign experiences, which helps you grow as a person.

What was the hardest or scariest thing you experienced while abroad, and what did you do?

Traveling as a group of 7, we arrived in Amalfi for the weekend. We climbed what felt like 2,000,000 stairs and in what felt like 110 degree heat with all our stuff on our backs, and we finally made it to the bed and breakfast we booked. No reservation. Nothing. Not until next weekend at least, and it is now 7 o'clock at night. So far, no other hotels have any other openings, so the lady offered us freshly squeezed orange juice to try to mitigate the fact that we were now homeless for the weekend.

After some minor freak outs, we eventually discovered a very expensive hotel right on the water that could hold all of us. We ran. Now as sweaty as ever, but completely relieved, we cleaned up and treated ourselves to the most delicious dinner on the water with a breathtaking view of the Amalfi coast. So. Moral of the story: even being homeless in Italy cannot stop you from having an amazing time.