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Why (I think) every American student should study abroad:

Positano, Italy this past summer.

The other morning I was going over my pre-departure timeline for my summer travels to Italy (six months prior to departure you should check/apply for your passport). In doing so, I realized that my passport expires this April and it is time to renew. But what I also realized was that my expired passport meant it had been ten years since I first left the country and this summer marks my eleventh summer in Italy! Seriously… wow!

As cheesy and cliché as it sounds my first trip abroad changed my life. As an undergraduate history major my advisor invited me on his inaugural summer study course in Rome, Italy. I jumped at the chance to see Italian art and history first hand. I convinced myself that I might never have this opportunity again, so I spent months reading about the art, the history, and sites of Italy. I created a personalized binder where I listed the names of artists, paintings, and the churches that housed them, and I made a map of the sites where I could find the statues and monuments I had read about in my classes. Can you say type A personality?

At the end of the trip, my advisor was so impressed by my initiative that he invited me to be his assistant/intern on the same trip the following summer. Nine years and ten trips later, I am the associate director of a summer study university program based in Florence, Italy.

Over the years I have seen first hand how studying abroad changes lives (I know, I know, again with the cliché, but there is no other way to say it). Growing up in the U.S. usually means you have very little exposure to other cultures. For better or for worse, American culture is the dominant pop culture throughout most of the world. We are use to the rest of the world conforming to us, learning our language and appealing to our tastes in music, film, etc. The bottom line is Americans are rarely asked to adapt to other languages, cultures, and value systems. Studying abroad, even if for a summer, forces American students out of their cultural bubble/comfort zone. Your perspective on yourself and the world you live in is forever transformed! It is an amazing adventure of self-discovery, learning, good food, and a lot of fun!

I thought I would share some of my favorite pictures from the past ten (incredible and amazing) years… warning picture overload ahead!

My first trip to Italy in 2004! Here we are riding an ancient column in the Roman Forum.
And yes those are green velour Juicy sweatpants… we all make mistakes!
In 2005 I got to take my best friend. Here we are on top of mount Vesuvio, overlooking the Bay of Naples.
2006 in front of the Vatican with my advisor.
Climbing the leaning tower of Pisa in 2007.
Exploring the Market of Trajan (aka the world'd first mall) in 2008.
Recreating statues in Florence in 2009.
The jumping pictures started in 2010 in Pompeii, they are now a time-honored tradition.
Vineyard tour and lots of wine consumption in 2011.
Throwing coins into the Trevi Fountain in 2012.
And this happened in the Roman Forum in 2013. Yes, they walked the streets of Rome in their togas made from the bedsheets they stole from their hotel rooms (love it)!

Combing through my picture archives, I also found this hilarious picture of a gondolier photo-bombing a couple of students (and on his cell).

Along with evidence that my J.Crew obsession has been going on for years. Yes, my shorts matched my umbrella lol (and I was quite proud of it).

Head-to-toe J.Crew for the Palio in Sienna, 2007.

Thanks for letting me walk down memory lane! Please don't hesitate to contact me if you are thinking about a study abroad program or have questions about studying abroad!

Ashley B
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  1. I studied abroad in Salamanca, Spain, during my senior year in high school...and ever since I've been itching to get out of the USA! It hasn't happened yet, but if a chance ever presents itself, I'll be hopping on!

  2. This is such a great post! I think it is so cool that you get to go to Italy every summer :)

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  3. Loved looking through your pictures throughout the years, Italy is on my bucket list. Although I couldn't afford to leave my job to study abroad while in college now that I am out I look forward to doing more traveling.

  4. So jealous of your Italian summers. I've stayed in Florence with my parent's old UN friends. It was hands down the best trip I've ever taken.

    I like how you mentioned planning and researching your trip ahead of time. It's so much more rewarding to know the deeper background of what you are seeing. It looks like it paid off even more for you sense you get to continually go back! I would also add (for anyone who wants to spend more time abroad), while university sponsored time abroad is great, looking through your network for people to stay with and going directly to local universities (then getting the current university to approve it) where you want to stay can offer unique opportunities. Sometimes its even more affordable.

  5. I love this post! Although I'm not American student but from the UK, I completely agree that spending some time living abroad changes you for the better. I'm only living in Venice for three months (and my time here is almost over, boo!), and yet I still feel I've learnt a lot from the time that I've spent here, not to mention the incredible time I'm having studying history in such a beautiful and fascinating place.

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