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Saints Abroad: Siena, Italy

Before I knew where I would attend college, I knew I would study abroad. The opportunity to travel to another country and completely immerse myself in a new society, culture and lifestyle intrigued me. I always saw traveling as an opportunity for a multitude of things; whether that be escaping, learning, or seeing the world, it was something that attracted me from a very young age.

Long story short, I have landed myself in Siena, Italy for the 2019 spring semester. As I wrote the previous sentence I still cannot believe what I am doing or where I am. I arrived in Italy on January 13, it seems as though just yesterday I was packing up the family van and heading off to Siena College for my freshman year. Reflecting on the past month, it has all been blur. In Siena, Italy, everything moves slowly beside time, time flies by.

I am taking a full course load while here and partaking in five hours of service per week. The program I, and eight other Siena students, are enrolled in consists of six credits of Italian class, three electives, and a reflecting writing class. I am taking Medieval History, Italian Cinema and Italian Cuisine. Besides classes, there are diverse and ample opportunities to get involved in the community through service. Whether it be at a cat shelter, in an ambulance or at an elementary school, there is something for everyone. I volunteer at an elementary school and refugee program.

Siena, Italy is a historical medieval city that is a UNESCO protected site, therefore, you could say it’s pretty important. Every day I find myself in awe of the architecture and rich history cemented into this gem located in the Tuscan countryside. The city of Siena is surrounded by a medieval wall that dates back to the 12th century. The city itself is a step back in time. Despite the cars and mass number of mopeds, it truly looks, feels, and is a medieval city.

Within the past month, I have been fortunate enough to travel to Florence, Paris and Rome. Over spring break, I will be visiting Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon and the Amalfi Coast. Traveling within Europe is relatively inexpensive in comparison to travel back in the States. In every place I have visited, at one point or another I have found myself in awe of what surrounds me. Whether it be the Eiffel Tower, Sistine Chapel, Ponte Vecchio, or La Sagrada Familia, it is all so spectacular. These are the sort of landmarks and places I see in movies yet never thought I would see in my life.

For those that have seen “Good Will Hunting” with Robin Williams, I find the scene when Will and Sean sit on the park bench and Sean, played by Robin Williams tells Will Hunting about all the things that he has yet, or for that matter failed to experience and see in his life. One of those things being the Sistine Chapel, Sean exclaims, “Michelangelo? You know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations. The whole works, right? I bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling.” The point that I am trying to make here is that learning about historical monuments, figures and events is crucial, education is necessary, but traveling and being able to experience these pieces of art and historical monuments is also education. It allows us the opportunity to see the triumph and greatness which humans can attain.

The best piece of advice I could give to anyone curious or hesitant to study abroad, I would simply say, do it. Go abroad. Study in a new and foreign country for a semester, you might surprise yourself, I know I did.