In front of Ferrara's medieval castle, Castello Estense

In front of Ferrara’s medieval castle, Castello Estense

I am studying abroad in Ferrara, Italy, a small medieval town in the region of Emilia-Romagna in the CIEE Liberal Arts program. CIEE stands for the Council on International Educational Exchange and is a nonprofit organization based in the U.S.

For CIEE Ferrara, we have three wonderful directors who do so much for the 21 students in the program this semester. I am studying with students from all over the U.S., including students from University of Oregon, Rutgers, Gettysburg College, and University of Rhode Island. We took a two-week intensive Italian class at the beginning of the semester and then began content courses in subjects including Italian Cinema, History, Literature, Food Science, and Translation – all of which are taught entirely in Italian.

For me, getting a college education is all about having experiences that allow you to grow as an intellectual and a human being. That’s what studying in a foreign country is doing for me. Being in Ferrara is wildly enriching my study of the Italian language because almost nobody speaks a lick of English in this small university town. When I got here, it was overwhelming to not be able to speak English to just anyone on the street. Ferrara is not a tourist destination, so if I try to speak English to people they give me the strangest looks. No longer can I only turn my brain to thinking in Italian for only an hour every other day — I am literally forced to speak it all day, every day. It is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve vastly improved my language skills here.

Visiting Antoni Gaudi's Casa Batllo in Barcelona

Visiting Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Batllo in Barcelona

Getting to know Italians my age and what Italians think of America is also fascinating. At the beginning of the semester, an Italian student told me, “We learn English because we have to. You learn Italian because it’s fun.” This really rang true — I’m blessed to live in a country where the national language is extraordinarily common throughout the world. I also live with two wonderful Italian host parents, who know no English and who love to hear about Texas. When I told them I live there, my host dad immediately told me how much he loves “Walker, Texas Ranger.” Hilarious.

I have also had the chance to travel around Italy, and I even went to Barcelona, Spain. Traveling is a huge passion of mine and I will treasure the experiences I have had during this remarkable semester.

Visiting Italy's military academy in Modena

Visiting Italy’s military academy in Modena