Why did you decide to study abroad with API in Italy?
Gillian: I originally wanted to study in Spain because it has always been a life goal of mine to be fluent in a second language and I had taken 8 years of Spanish; unfortunately, I was hard-pressed to find many program appropriate for an English/liberal arts major, so I began to consider Italy. I had been there once before and loved it, and found many more programs there that offered more of the types of classes I was looking for. Because learning the language was a priority for me, I started taking Italian at my college and fell in love with the language! I'm not fluent yet but am definitely still working on it.
I chose API's program primarily because Lorenzo de' Medici offered courses on food (both scholarly and hands-on culinary), which was not a field I could study at my college but something I was becoming increasingly interested in. API also had the most all-encompassing program, by which I mean their price (which was less than a semester at my college) included intensive excursions, total support of staff both abroad & at home, an apartment, and help with the visa and course selection/registration. My program manager is one of the nicest people I know and always got back to me fast.
And then of course - who wouldn't want to live in Tuscany for three months? I'm just sayin'.
What do you think made this experience unique and special?
Gillian: Well, Italy! Every region in that country is different, and it is incredibly interesting to see those differences side by side through travel and especially food. Because I'd done extensive European travel before going abroad, I wanted to spend as much time as I could getting to know my host country and even moreso, my host city of Florence and really understand what it was to live abroad. Florence, for me, was a perfect city because it was just small enough to be easily walkable, but big enough to offer a constant stream of new things to do and new places to explore. I really felt like I learned what it was to be a "local" while I was in Florence.
How did this experience impact your academic development?
Gillian: My experience had a HUGE impact on my life! I started writing my food blog at the beginning of my semester and have continued it ever since. That, in combination with the intense food culture of Tuscany & Italy and the food courses I took at LdM, helped me realize my passion for food, and I plan on either attending culinary school or pursuing my Master's in Gastronomy now that I have graduated.
Studying abroad also helped me on a very personal level. I really adapted the more laid-back Italian mindset and learned how to laugh when everything in my life doesn't work out just so. I also gained a lot of confidence in my ability to be independent and adaptable - there is just something about mastering the Italian train system that is absolutely liberating self-esteem-boosting!