Alumni Spotlight: Hailey Davey

Hailey grew up in Evergreen, Colorado with the love for adventure and travel. She now teaches High School Mathematics in North Carolina and took an absolutely fantastic summer trip...to ITALY!

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Why did you choose this program?

Here is the thing: life is short, it goes quickly, and it is human nature to want to get the most out of it. You WILL if you take on this experience.

I chose this program because it had the flexibility to travel on the weekends, and was cost-effective to experiences I wanted to have. In short, I spent two months in Italy. That sounds magical enough, right? I also went skydiving, swam in Lake Como, visited Switzerland and Greece, took a boat tour in Venice, rode a Vespa all over Florence and the hills of Chianti up to a villa for pasta and wine, taught in a Italian middle school for a few days, visited Pisa, Verona, Pietrasanta, and Italian wineries all over the country, swam in the Mediterranean, went to an Italian language school and hiked between the towns of Cinque Terre. I also got to live in the most incredible place with a wonderful family.

If this sounds ideal, do it!

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

The organization hooked me up with the best host family ever, a wonderful mother and an extremely bright daughter. They also gave me insurance for the time I was there.

I did everything else! The flights, transportation to the host family, travels I had on the weekend, and experiences during the week such as the Italian Language School I went to were all up to me.

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

There are a few things I would say to someone who is about to live overseas.

First, I would really try to not have any expectations; it will end up being a beautiful, wonderful experience, so take a deep breath and leap into it. If you do not have any expectations, you can rejoice when anything good happens.

I would also say to pack light, with an open heart and mind.

I would say, immerse yourself as fast as you can into the culture that you go into. Talk to people, ask questions, if the thing to do is have coffee at 11 am and dinner at 9 pm, try to do that - see what it is like! The point is to see life in another country, so the faster you jump into it, the more enriching it will be.

Do not get bogged down when the classic travel problems arise. Flights will cancel, trains will delay, hotels will not be what you thought, something will go wrong - and that is OKAY. Take a deep breath, and know that everyone deals with it; that is part of the fun, to adapt and make a good story out of the problems that arise.

You will grow so much and learn so much about yourself at this time; just get ready for the ride!

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

I think it depends on what type of host family you are living with and what their schedule is, but for me, a typical day was WONDERFUL.

I would get up around 8am and the mother and daughter were already at school or work, so I did not speak with them and do English lessons until they got home at night. My days varied because of this fact, but most often I would go on a run around the old city walls, come back and make breakfast and get ready for the day.

I would go to an Italian Language School, find new restaurants or museums in my town to go to, or take a train for a day trip somewhere magical! Then, I would get the daughter from her choir or cello lessons, and then we would go have dinner, take walks and I would teach her English in real life scenarios.

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

My biggest fear was being able to accomplish all of the things I wanted to or be able to have enough time to really understand the culture. There is a balance you have to find when you travel abroad. A balance in how much you travel and how much you settle into the culture you are in, as well as a balance of whether to go to the touristy places or off the beaten path.

I would first make a list of places you really want to see or goals you want to achieve (Google reviews and pictures help a ton to deem if something is important, but make sure to read more than just one or two to get a real idea). It is tiring to be on the go-go-go, so do not burn yourself out trying to go everywhere and see everything, the world is big, try to prioritize on what you REALLY want to do. With that being said, some of those things you want to see will be the big tourist attractions; that is because they really are great! But be aware of when you go for crowds or booking tours in advance. To climb the dome in the Duomo in Florence, book in advance! Hostelworld.com is a great way to find hostels, and of course, airbnb.com is an awesome tool for apartments. Cinque Terre, Venice, Lucca, and Lake Como are truly incredible! I also would look into booking a villa in the hills of Italy. We found a fantastic one in Garfangana that was very cheap with a pool! It was very gorgeous. Also, the beaches in Pietrasanta are wonderful!

With all of that being said, I realized that having the correct mindset for what you want to accomplish is key. I realized that you can not control everything, and you have to be able to go with the flow, and if you have an inkling to do something, there is a reason you have it - follow that!

You will not be able to do EVERYTHING on your list, but to enjoy each day is much more important. Traveling alone to a new country where you do not know the language takes an adjustment, try to get the tears or nerves out of the way as quickly as you can, to treat each day as a gift - it goes fast!

What was the scariest or most nerve-racking thing you did while abroad?

Most people would probably say that skydiving was the scariest, maybe even going to a country to live where you do not know one person or the language; however, for me it was riding a Vespa through Florence.

Vespas are very touchy, FAST machines. You have to be very cognizant and aware, but I also wanted to enjoy the surroundings and not be too tense and nervous that I would miss out on having fun. I had to take a few deep breathes, tell myself I can do it (because I believe, once it is verbalized, it can come true), and bask in the glory of what an incredible experience it would be! A lot of my trip I needed to do those three things, and it helped me grow into the independent woman I want to be, as well as to take each day as it was and get the most out of it all.