Somewhere deep down, USF student Kim Kelly, 22, knew that her summer in Italy would be amazing. Yet, she said she never anticipated exactly how much it would alter her outlook on life.
“Although I’m a proud American, the trip opened my eyes to the rest of the world,” she said.
After she was successfully accepted into the summer program at the Universita per Stranieri (University for Foreigners) she had several months to plan and save for her four-week Italian adventure in the vibrant academic and cultural hub of Perugia.
Both Kelly and her American roommate, Isabella Canizarest, touched down at the busy Leonardo Da Vinci International Airport in Rome.
“We got off the plane, and no one could speak English,” Kelly said. “We also had no idea how to get to Perugia.”
Kelly said she recalls the first few days as overwhelming, but after four days of adjusting to the cultural climate of the Italian lifestyle, the turning point for Kelly came in the form of a night out.
“I’m the type of person who doesn’t like change, but when I prepare for it I can adjust,” Kelly said. “We were all Americans, and we all stuck out like sore thumbs.”
Consequently, the USF students became popular among the Italian men. Kelly said she can remember them flocking around the group saying, “Che Bella” (Italian for very beautiful).
Originally set up by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, the University for Foreigners would be Kelly’s base for her month-long program. Head professor of the USF’s Italian faculty, Dominico Ierardo, has been the program director for nearly two decades. Kelly said she and her fellow students were stimulated by his cultural classes, which included various excursions to museums and events.
“One of the greatest benefits of studying in Perugia is that our students join other undergraduates from around the world in experiencing the open, friendly Italian culture together, while sharing their own cultures as well,” Ierardo said. “The cultural exposure from many planned site visits throughout Italy gives students great insight into Italy’s history as well as its people.”
Kelly said she could recall one particular event that left a lasting impression on her: the Palio horserace in Siena Surrounded by buildings of grandeur, hundreds of people cram into the Piazza del Campo to support their particular contrada’s (district) horse.
“The actual horse race is achingly brief: a minute and a half, give or take a few seconds,” Kelly said. “But within those few seconds, words cannot describe what happens. Utter pandemonium breaks loose. Fans scream, banners wave, whistles blare and cannons are fired as the frantic animals finally break loose at break-neck speed on a course to fame or failure.
“Oh my God, it was absolutely insane.”
After returning to Florida, the journey home to her family in Clearwater was bittersweet.
“Italy was so amazing, and it was hard to come back,” Kelly said. “It was great to see my parents, but I can remember thinking, man, nothing looks pretty anymore. I would at least like to bring back their relaxed attitude to life, because everyone back here was so stressed out.”
Since Kelly’s journey, she said she was given a positive sense of liberation, which took control of her life.
“The trip has changed my whole career path. I want to get into traveling, promote study abroad or just work with foreigners,” she said.
Her global experience has led to her decision to change her major to international studies. Kelly said she will always remember Italy.
“I will avoid falling in a rut again. I know now that there is something more out there for me,” she said.
Contact Sam Baillieat firstname.lastname@example.org