A large part of my identity is that I am a Black woman. I take pride in that, but I’m also very aware of my identity at all times. I wasn’t sure how that would combine with my study abroad experience, but I learned a lot about myself, and others, throughout the process.
I studied abroad through Academic Programs International (API) in the Fall of 2018 in Florence, Italy. Coming from the University of Alabama, I already understood how my identity impacted me at home, but I wondered how it would change in this new foreign country. I’m typically an optimistic person, and that did not change in this instance. In fact, I did little research surrounding Italian’s cultural views on women and African Americans. I’d been told by friends that Italians love Black women and that was enough for me to not be concerned.
And I had an amazing time studying abroad in Italy! But there were certain instances where my race came into play that are worth mentioning.
My time abroad has come to an end! Nearly 4 months spent in Italy and I am feeling more than blessed. I visited 12 different countries and around 20 cities during my time abroad, and all while immersing myself in Florentine culture. Truly, I couldn't have picked a better city to study abroad in.
To finish out my semester full of travels, I headed to Budapest, Vienna and Salzburg to get a deeper taste of east-European culture. Having visited Berlin earlier in the semester, and knowing how great of an experience I had there, I was sure that Hungary and Austria would be great! My friends and I planned the trip for the last weekend in November, in order for us to also visit the famous Christmas markets in Austria. So, we made our way on our cold, yet exciting, trip!
When I made my list of cities and countries that I wanted to visit while abroad, London ranked pretty high. So, when I realized I had a free weekend to travel, I instantly looked into a trip to London. I figured it would be much more expensive to travel to London since I would have to travel by plane rather than train or bus like I had been doing all semester. But, to my surprise, I found some pretty cheap flights! I even found direct flights from Florence's tiny airport to London, then from London to Dublin! With that in mind, I figured, why not get the most out of this weekend and hit both London and Dublin! I booked the flights and the hostels and excitedly waited for the trip to come!
Being highly anticipated, my trip to Rome was even better than I was expecting! After traveling to other Italian cities such as Milan, Cinque Terre, Venice, and more, I was excited to finally make my way to the ancient city of Rome. This would be the longest trip I would take with my study abroad program, as we would be spending a little over three days in the city so we would have enough time to cover everything -- or at least close to everything. So, the time finally came. We hopped on our coach bus and began the 4 hour ride to Rome!
Last week, I took the trip I had been highly anticipating all semester! During my Fall break, I traveled to Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and Barcelona -- all in 10 days! It was exhausting to say the least, but it is hands down one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had. Seeing the East Side Gallery in Berlin, the beautiful canals of Amsterdam, the gorgeous architecture in Brussels, the glimmering Eiffel Tour in Paris, and the lovely beaches of Barcelona, all while being surrounded by great friends, is definitely one of the biggest highlights of my year!
It's been a minute since my last blog post, so we have a lot to catch up on! I mentioned that traveling to other countries while studying abroad is high on my to-do list, but I also mentioned how important it was for me to immerse myself in Italian culture. In the past few weeks I've traveled all over Italy and I can't wait to share my experiences. So, strap in, we have a lot to cover! (P.S. We have seven cities to cover so feel free to skip around!)
Visiting Santorini was high up on my bucket list of travel locations, and I got the chance to do it this past weekend! It was definitely quite the process of getting there, but it was an experience of a lifetime. Being in charge of getting 7 girls to and from a small Greek island definitely tested my travel skills, but after hours of searching for the cheapest and most trustworthy options, I figured it out!
A few people seem a bit concerned with how much I have planned to travel while studying abroad, in fear that I was forgetting about the study aspect. But rest assured, all my trips take place over the weekend! Only having class Monday through Wednesday is definitely fueling my ability to take frequent trips, and given this once in a lifetime opportunity, I have to take every chance I get at a new experience!
So far, my blog has barely mentioned schoolwork, classes, or anything related to my studies while abroad. So, let's step away from the seemingly more fun parts of studying abroad and focus on my academics for a bit! The first thing I'll say is that European schools are no joke! Attendance is strict, standards are high and exceptions are rarely made. But, the rigor and level of difficulty of my classes is a challenge that I am excited to tackle!