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Studying Under the Tuscan Sun

Nov 30th, 2017

Studying Under the Tuscan Sun

This story is featured in the Fall 2017 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how HPU’s study abroad opportunities provide students with valuable experiences.

By Katherine Dunleavy, Class of 2018

It was noon on a hot August day when I landed at Florence’s little airport. In the distance, I saw the Tuscan hillside and its rolling landscape and vineyards. The bright Italian sun hit my cheeks, and the apprehension I had before leaving America, before leaving HPU, vanished.

Among the many things that drew me to HPU were the vast study abroad opportunities. England, Spain, Italy, Australia, Brazil, China and beyond. Florence, Italy, found its way to the top of my list, and HPU offers an affiliated program in the heart of the city.

Fast forward to the spring semester of my sophomore year when I accepted my offer to study at Lorenzo de’ Medici Institute for the fall. I was ready to experience a new culture — an entirely different world. Little did I know, my time spent at HPU had prepared me for this adventure. Entering a world far beyond my college campus didn’t feel so foreign after all.

The first week or two was an adjustment period. I was far away from my usual life with all of my friends and sense of familiarity back at HPU. Life in Italy was as wonderful as it was different from my life in America. But I saw it as an opportunity for growth. My knowledge of Italian grew each day as I picked up words and phrases from conversations. And when my Italian failed, I figured out other means of communication

. Walking around was the only mode of transportation, meaning I averaged seven miles a day and managed to see some of the most historic sites the city had to offer.

I strolled past the childhood home of Dante on my way to class and traveled through the Medici Palace, where Michelangelo used to live. I walked past the world-famous Duomo, a fixture in the city’s historic skyline. I volunteered at a local kindergarten class, and the children ended up teaching me Italian. Every corner of Florence had a story to tell.

The pace of the city was slower than back home, and I learned the value of pausing to fully embrace opportunities and the value of discovery. I learned that even in the hustle and bustle of college life, I can make room to slow down and embrace these years, absorbing all that HPU offers. I learned to find adventures, even at home — at HPU.

Over the course of four months abroad, I was able to travel to 10 countries outside of Italy. I experienced Europe’s history from walking along the former Berlin Wall, to taking in the grandeur of the Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum in Rome. I applied the knowledge I gained from my HPU history courses to the sites I visited and developed a newfound sense of appreciation for my education. I realized how far my university had gone in preparingme to face the unknown, and even the oftentimes uncomfortable. For me, going abroad was about jumping out of my comfort zone, something I’ve been encouraged to do at HPU. I had the courage to leave because of the confidence and support that I’ve received during my time on campus.

The Study Abroad office guided us, removing barriers in the process so we could focus on academic and experiential learning while abroad. We encountered students from various universities while traveling, and I soon found out that other programs left housing up to the students. But HPU offers housing options abroad for students, allowing us to concentrate on the goals of our trip. Being abroad brings its own challenges, but knowing where I would be living allowed me to focus on the educational aspects of the experience.

Leaving HPU for four months wasn’t easy. I missed my friends that were back at school and the familiarity of my college life. But, going abroad showed me how strong and independent I am. I was thrown into a new way of life and learned to adapt, embrace and thrive in a new environment, like beginning a new job or making a career change. It gave me a newfound global perspective and made me more mature and aware of the world.

Back at HPU, I have applied this in my classes as well as my internship search. The travel experience I amassed abroad isn’t common for someone my age, which sets me apart from applicants. Soon after my return, I accepted an offer to intern at a public relations agency in New York City that boasts a list of domestic and international clients.

From adding to class discussions on foreign topics to working with clients from overseas, my study abroad experience is a gift that keeps on giving. More than endless memories, new friends and a new favorite city—studying abroad has prepared me for my future.


View this story and more in the Fall 2017 edition of the HPU Magazine: