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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

This summer, my childhood and college career dreams finally came true: I had the privilege of studying abroad in Italy during a 10-week program this summer at the Sant’Anna Institute. A whole season on the coast of southern Italy in a beach town known as Sorrento had its ups and downs and it was truly nothing like I was expecting. Although it was a dream, I had some growing pains; as well as some amazing food, intense travel stories, and a new outlook on Europe, the United States, and life itself. On this journey I had to keep in mind a few facts: I am a young college girl, I am Black and Puerto Rican and I do not know the Italian language! With this in mind, I had to be cautious, but open-minded as I was entering into a culture unlike my own.

Sorrento serves as a passage point to travelers on their journeys to the Amalfi Coast, Capri and Ischia. Thus, each day brought a new group of tourists and individuals from around the world. With this in mind, the language barrier was less of a barrier and more of a recommendation after all. This also brought about a hybridization between the two European cultures in the highly-toured area as well as the obvious influx of American students littering the cobblestone streets and beach chairs every day. 

I knew I had to travel. During my time there I went to Barcelona, Madrid, Ibiza, Santorini, Rome, Capri, Florence, Paris, Positano, Naples, Pompeii and truly dived into the ins and outs of Sorrento itself each day as it was my new home! Along with this, I knew I wanted to travel around Europe with my roommates, but also alone. So one goal was a solo trip to Switzerland! I booked a last-minute trip to Geneva, a riverside city known for its international and political importance. This was truly the best thing for me as whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed with life in general, I seclude myself and my mind opens. I went on a chocolate tour, ate fondue and allowed myself to embrace my surroundings as I was in a place I never thought I would be; a moment that nearly brought me to tears.

Now, as many would assume, food was a topic of discussion constantly, but for reasons many would not suspect. From what I could tell, they truly do eat pasta and pizza every day! For me, this was a struggle as I crave and eat a diverse palette on a daily and weekly basis. When I craved carbs, pasta and pizza I was in a generous supply of options and surrounded by Italian cuisine (obviously). But when I wanted a Chick-fil-A sandwich or a steak for dinner I was left with unsatisfied cravings. This in combination with one of the hottest heat waves Europe has ever seen and spotty Wi-Fi and air conditioning, there were some days where I was in a “negative mood” to say the least.

My classes were overall very interesting. I had the honor of studying the Mafia, Italian cinema, Italian food and culture, and the history of Western civilizations during my time in Sorrento at Sant’Anna. I was given the opportunity to study in a city unlike anything I’ve seen or experienced before. Our classrooms had a literal view of the city of Naples, over the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that erupted over Pompeii. As a history buff, this both excited me and intrigued me as I was living in a historic dream. I also found a new love for cinema and how it can translate a story unlike anything else.

Being in the United States, we are in a bubble; a bubble that eliminates the struggles and experiences of other places around the world. My entire college career and beliefs have been involved with breaking this trend and popping this bubble. My message to the country and other young adults would be to educate themselves and allow for relatability and camaraderie as we move onto professional careers and an extremely interconnected and technology-driven world. This trip allowed me to experience firsthand the differences and similarities of drastically different cultures, languages and personalities as many of the situations I was in felt like they could’ve happened anywhere or were specific to the region. I highly recommend studying abroad if you have the opportunity and to travel whenever you get the chance as the world is wide and your mind is ready to experience it.

Taylor Carey is a passionate writer and global citizen majoring in History and minoring in Political Science here at Virginia Commonwealth University. Taylor enjoys traveling, is a huge foodie and focuses her writing on social issues and current events. When she is not writing you can catch her fulfilling her Vice Presidential role as a Sigma Sigma Sigma sister and officer, cooking her favorite foods or in the Cabell Library working ahead on her homework!