By: Lillian Lema, Staff Writer
Finding a place that makes you feel at home is special and not easily forgotten. During a high school trip to Europe, student Jillian Fisher found her special place; Florence, Italy. After her trip was over Fisher was eager to return back. When the opportunity to study abroad at Florence University of the Arts arose she saw her golden ticket back to Italy. “I’ve always been drawn to the Italian culture and art. Ever since that high school trip I’ve had this intense connection with Florence where I’ve known I want to go back and live there someday,” the senior communication major said.
Right before the start of the Spring 2019 semester, Fisher was very calm about leaving the country because she was going to return back to a place she was familiar with. That all changed on the day she left. “I was like ‘Oh My God! What’s going on?’… I got a bit nervous,” she said. Eventually, the nerves went away as she got situated in her new home.
Fisher, along with other students, arrived a week early in Florence because they were enrolled in an “Cultural Introduction to Italy” class. During the class, they traveled to different cities and towns like Rome, Bomarzo, Caprarola, Orvieto, Perugia, and Assisi.
The following week Fisher started her classes at Florence University of the Arts and moved into an apartment located in the heart of Florence, Piazza Della Signoria. “My roommate and I were very lucky… we were so close to everything,” Fisher said.
Traveling on the weekends is common for students who study abroad, especially in Europe, due to the short distances between every country. Fisher’s classes meet on Thursdays and Fridays, which allowed her to use her weekend to explore new places and cultures. Along with her roommate/best friend, Rachel, and friends, Fisher visited Ireland, England, France, Belgium, Amsterdam, and the Amalfi Coast in Italy.
Exploring Florence and different countries in Europe started to become a financial concern for Fisher. About halfway through the semester, Fisher started to realize that she was overspending. “I didn’t even realize it until I looked at my online account one day and noticed I’d spent a ridiculous amount of money within one week,” Fisher said. She began budgeting and wasn’t able to go out to dinner every night, pick up souvenirs at every destination, and go to every event or place. “It was hard to say ‘no’ to people who asked, “want to go to Austria this weekend?’ Like, of course, I do, but I can’t,” she said.
The limits on her finances allowed her to get out of her comfort zone because she spent more time alone and paid attention to the small details of Florence. She became more independent. Fisher visited different neighborhoods, went to art museums, spent time in various cafes, and found small public gardens to spend time.
“This time allowed me to look past the crowds of the city and pay attention to the important details like the cobblestone streets, the massively ornate churches, and the beautiful art that I was surrounded by on a daily basis,” Fisher said.
Fisher advises anyone planning to travel abroad to make a budget and to monitor their spending. Even though Fisher claims she is still “paying for” her overspending a year later, she also acknowledges that it’s just money. “Those special experiences of going abroad and immersing yourself in a new culture are ones that do not happen very often so if you have the chance, do all you can,” she said.
A regret that Fisher has about her experience in Italy is that she didn’t take the time to learn Italian. Since Florence is one of the cities most visited by tourists in Italy, many of the residents speak English. Fisher describes this experience as convenient, yet, a burden. “I found it much easier to communicate with shop owners, tour guides, and restaurant workers, but not as easy to bond with the locals or the Italian culture itself,” she said.
Before Fisher knew it, her four months abroad came to an end. She would, once again, have to say good-bye to her home away from home. This trip was very significant to Fisher because it was a reunion with a place she has a special connection to. It was about gaining independence, making friends, learning new cultures, and above all, making memories.
“Living in a different country and being among people who belong to such a beautiful culture was the best experience I’ve ever had,” Fisher said.