2017 Grant Award: Colleen McBride

One month ago, I stepped off a plane in Florence, Italy. My mind (and stomach) were ready to be filled with the Italian culture. Little did I know at that time that my life would be changed in such a positive, beneficial, and enriching way.

These past four weeks have been a whirlwind in which my jaw continues to drop. Each day is completely different from the next. The coolest aspect about studying abroad is the fact that I get to be a student here, not just a tourist. In addition to hitting all the main spots of town, I go to the grocery store, occasionally cook in my apartment, and study for my exams. I’m not on vacation; rather, I have a lifestyle here.

The two courses I am taking are brand marketing and photography. As an advertising student, these two classes have blended business and creativity together in the most perfect way. I am so excited to jump right into my communications internship when I get back home because of how much I have learned from classes here in Italy.

The weeks are always busy. Monday through Thursday I go to class at 9am, then I’ll hit a great panini shop for lunch. One shop in particular, named Pino’s, is by far my favorite. The owner Pino knows me by name and even knows my order! The paninis are only 4 Euro, so my wallet is happy as well when I eat here. After class I love to wander through the heart of Florence. I love to get lost in the city and take in all the sights and sounds. There are countless numbers of souvenir shops and gelaterias that I’ll always roam into to pick out a small gift for family and friends or buy a small gelato for myself to enjoy on my walk through the small cobblestone streets.

I absolutely love to cook. It’s a bit difficult to cook here, but I have made some dinners possible in my apartment’s kitchen. The windows in my kitchen look out to a small garden. I love to open the windows and cook while listening to the birds chirping and the church bells ringing every 15 minutes.

Every weekend I have traveled outside of Florence to new cities. So far, I have hiked the 5 towns of Cinque Terre, enjoyed delicious meals in Chianti and San Gimignano (Tuscany), snapped a picture at the Learning Tower of Pisa, went on a bike ride through the town of Lucca, swam in the Tyrrhenian Sea in Capri, cliff jumped in the Amalfi Coast, and went paragliding and canyoning in Switzerland. In the coming weeks I will be visiting Venice, Verona, Bologna and Rome. Needless to say, I have seen an extreme amount of beauty and nature. Even in Florence, I am blown away as to how beautiful the Arno River is. I get to cross it every day to get to class, and every day I take a picture. My phone storage is so full!

To sum up my experience here in Firenze, I would use the follow words: eating, walking, studying, picture-taking, and dreaming. As someone who has been to Disney World ten times and has visited Epcot’s World Showcase, I have to keep pinching myself here and say,“This is actually real!” More often than not, I will take a deep breath and realize where I am and how blessed I am to be here. I have dreamed about going to Italy since I was a little girl watching Lizzie McGuire become a superstar on the big screen. As I am sipping espresso at a café looking out to the Arno River and typing this paper, the little girl inside of me is jumping for joy. At this point in my abroad experience, I can say that I have certainly gained a strong global perspective.