Alumni Spotlight: Samantha Melamed


Why did you choose this program?

I wanted to go to Italy because I’d never been there before, but I didn’t want to study in Florence like everyone else. My advisor suggested Viterbo because it’s a small city, and I’d be immersed in Italian culture. I think most study abroad programs require students to take language classes at the host university, but USAC offered a special four-semesters-in-one program of Italian, which was amazing. I’m so proud of how much Italian I learned in such a short amount of time.

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

USAC assisted with EVERYTHING from housing, to volunteer and internship opportunities, to finding SIM cards. They helped so much that some people in my program complained that they babied us, but it was comforting to know we had all the support we needed at all times. Of course, we’d be on our own when we traveled on the weekends, and that’s where I gained any independence while studying abroad.

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

In all honesty, there is nothing that could prepare you to study abroad because every experience will be new to you, and I think everyone has their own reason or goal for studying abroad in the first place. Many people who studied in Viterbo, like me, were history majors. Viterbo is an Etruscan stronghold, so you’ll learn a lot about Italy even prior to the Medieval Era. If you’re not knowledgeable of the Etruscans, you might want to do some research on the city beforehand. No matter where you go, you should research your city- the politics, social norms, etc.

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

The classes are usually for three hours once a week, and many classes are only offered for half the semester. Many people I know took advantage of this opportunity and took most of their classes the first half of the semester, which left them with about one or two days a week of classes for the second half of the semester. These people traveled a lot in the second half of the semester.

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

I think I was just scared in general to be on my own for four months because I never saw myself as an independent person. I realized, by the time I started traveling to different countries on my own on the weekends, that I could do anything I wanted to, and that I could do anything on my own. I was also afraid of the language barrier, but you won’t be alone in this, most people in your program are in the same boat as you are.

What is your favorite travel memory?

All of my favorite stories came from nightmarish traveling experiences that were overwhelmingly embarrassing at the time. I went to the wrong airport in Frankfurt after Beer Fest, so I booked a random flight to Milan on the spot and was stranded in Milan for a night. I got locked out of my BnB in Cinque Terre. These things happen. You will learn not to panic in these situations.