*Note: Photos are numbered as they appear on the page from top to bottom
By Lisa Winters, Field Hockey
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Seven weeks ago, I made my way from Hershey, Pennsylvania to my study abroad base city of Florence, Italy. Since then, I visited 20 other Italian cities and towns, made incredible new friends and became closer with old ones, and fell in love with the culture that I got to experience and learn about through travel and class. I lived in an apartment in a residential part of the city with 11 other girls from Penn State and UConn, and was lucky enough to have an amazing roommate whom I had already become acquainted with through the Sapphire Leadership Academic Program in the Smeal College of Business, Sam Schmitt. We quickly became great friends and started going everywhere together.
One of our first, and still one of my favorite, experiences during our first weekend in Florence was going to a Fiorentina soccer game against Lazio at the Artemio Franchi stadium (Photo 1). Some of my other favorite moments were seeing Michelangelo's David in Florence, hiking between Vernazza and Monterosso in Cinque Terre, taking a boat into the Blue Grotto in the Amalfi Coast, shopping my way to the Duomo in Milan (Photo 2), and taking a gondola ride through the canals of Venice (Photo 3 - feat. Sam Schmitt).
I spent all of my weekdays in Florence for class, but even the hours spent in my Marketing and Food & Culture classes were far from an average experience. Learning about branding through visits to Italian companies was a much more engaging process than the typical classroom. From the Carrara marble quarry that provided the marble for the Pantheon in Rome and Michelangelo's David to the Pitti Immagine men's fashion trade show, there were so many different types of businesses that we got to not only hear about, but see for ourselves. And while we were constantly experiencing the food and culture of the country throughout our daily lives, having a professor who could take us around the food markets and to a beautiful sustainable garden was a great opportunity.
On our last night in Florence, a group of my new friends and I climbed to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sun set over the city (Photo 4). My parents had come for the last week of class, so after finals we were able to take off on one last trip to see all the historic sites of Rome together (Photo 5). So while I was sad to have the semester come to an end, I couldn't have asked for a better finale. The past weeks have been a truly memorable adventure, and I look forward to any opportunity to continue exploring in the future.