I am a junior majoring in architecture and minoring in occupational safety and health applied sciences, and I am spending this semester abroad in Florence, Italy.
I knew I wanted to study away since my first semester at Keene. In the architecture department, we are encouraged by our professors to go abroad. Being exposed to architecture and design from so many different time periods is so important to understand how we got to where we are today. It has been so amazing to walk through the streets in Firenze and see everything I’ve learned about in my classes at Keene State in person. I walk by the Duomo every day on my way to class and it doesn’t feel real.
Coming from an Italian family, there was no question in where I wanted to study, and living in a homestay was one of the best decisions I could have made. I arrived on Jan. 31 and have just finished my first week of classes. I live with a single host mother who is just so kind, as well as four other students. My host mother does not speak much English, so there have been some challenges in communication (she cannot pronounce my name and calls me Evelyn, which I love), but luckily one of my roommates has been studying here for almost two years and can speak Italian and translates for us when necessary. One of the classes I am taking is Elementary Italian Language, so I am hopeful that I will be able to pick up quickly and communicate easier by myself in the coming weeks.
Last weekend, our host mother introduced us to friends of hers and took us to an art exhibition opening where we were able to meet more local people. We have spent time with them, had meals with them and they are helping us with our Italian as well. I already feel so immersed in the Italian culture through these experiences and I have only been here a little over one week. If I were not living in a homestay, I would not have these opportunities and I am so excited to continue to learn and experience more in the next few months.
While so much of it has been wonderful and exciting, there have been some challenges as well, the biggest being communication. When I meet new people and they learn my last name is Conti (a very common Italian name), they expect that I speak the language and sometimes appear frustrated when I tell them I do not. This has been a little discouraging at times, but has also made me more determined to learn to speak in Italian.
So much of this adjustment has been made easier with my homestay. My host mother, my roommate who has lived in Italy before and the local people I have met give us tips and answer any questions we have about living in Florence and traveling Europe. If anyone is interested in studying abroad and is considering a home stay, do it. I was very nervous going into it, not knowing what to expect, but the experience has been nothing but wonderful and even after just a short time here, I would recommend it to anyone.
Ciao Keene State, see you in the fall!
Erin Conti can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org