Describe your most meaningful souvenir and why you love it?
Abbie:My most meaningful souvenir is a collection of Christmas ornaments. Every country or city in Italy I went to, I found an ornament (or an object that could be made into one) to bring home with me. Since Christmas is my favorite holiday, this collection means a great deal to me.
As I was decorating my tree this year, I was able to unwrap each ornament that was luckily still intact from my travels home to the states. Though it had only been a few months, I forgot what some of the ornaments looked like. Being able to hang each one on my tree this year was an amazing way to remember all the countries I have seen and the little shops I found the ornaments in.
If you could do-over one thing, what would it be?
Abbie:If I could do-over one thing, it would be to spend more of my traveling time in Italy. I absolutely loved my city (Perugia) and all the places I journeyed too, but it would have been nice to understand how easy it was to travel from the beginning. For the first month or so I was living in Italy, I was concerned about getting to know my city and afraid to travel on my own. Going abroad without knowing anyone, I was a little too shy at first to ask people to accompany me. If I had a chance to do it over, I would have liked to step out of my comfort zone and travel on my own or with new people.
Did you run into a language barrier? Did you ever think you knew more/less of the language?
Abbie:Language barriers, for me, happened all the time. If I could go back in time and slap myself over thinking I could easily study abroad in a country that I didn’t know the language in, I would. Before going to Italy, I had never taken an Italian language class. Although I had taken Spanish in high school, which proved helpful at times, I learned within the first week how valuable some Italian studying would have been.
My program offered an immersive, week-long course introducing us to the basics of the language and Italian customs, as well as how to get around the city. This was extremely helpful. If your program does not offer this, I would recommend asking a teacher or faculty member to give you the lay of the land in the beginning of your semester. This not only helped me travel to other cities and get to flights on time, but also gave me an insight into the culture in Perugia and the local landmarks, cafes, restaurants, etc. that were a must!
What was the best place you visited outside of your home-base city?
Abbie:The best place I visited outside of Italy was probably Greece. Coming from the Ocean State, I am a beach bum at heart so Greece was right up my alley. To save on expenses, we flew in to Athens and stayed in Piraeus, which is right near the Port. Though our hostel wasn’t the chicest, it was 15 euros a night and was in walking distance from great restaurants, bars, and the port. The transportation was easy to figure out, and the first few days were spent exploring the ruins and getting to know locals and their cuisine (I became a bit of a foody abroad).
The best thing about Greece beside the views? The prices. Everything that we did, found, tasted, etc. was so cheap in comparison to other popular destinations. Also, traveling to smaller islands was easy and cost effective as well. We spent the remainder of our trip traveling to Aegina and Hydra islands, which were both less than 2 hours by boat (definitely the best idea, instead of spending tons to see Santorini and Mykonos). You can easily walk around, take donkey rides and find ruins (which are free for students). Everyone that we met was so nice, inviting and willing to help point out directions whenever we needed it. A must see, in my opinion!