Tuesday, February 16, 2016


All the necessities!

By Hannah Grahek*

Studying abroad has been something I’ve wanted to do since I can remember. Growing up, I recall feeling a great sense of longing, even jealously, when I would see people I knew get the chance to take on the great adventure overseas. I knew one day I wanted that to be me.

 Italy is a country I’ve wanted to visit since I was little. I love the lifestyle and culture that the country entails. I’ve always heard that Italians are laid back (as am I), warm, and genuine. Those are the types of people that I want to surround myself with. Also, Italy is home to some amazing, historic places that I cannot wait to visit. I have a passion for the arts, so I am thrilled to have access to all of the amazing museums across the country. Last but not least, THE FOOD. I am an avid pasta devourer, and am a little more than excited to taste some authentic Italian food. 

Studying abroad also offers the chance to immerse yourself in a culture that’s completely different than your own. Growing up in the United States creates a sort of bubble, and it can be hard to see outside your own culture and what you are used to. I want the chance to see how Italians live their life. It will be a great learning experience to spend time in a different culture and then return to the United States and compare it to my own. Sometimes people feel that their culture is the only one relevant when it comes to day-to-day life. Ethnocentrism is alive and well, and we all need to remember that there are countless other cultures that live their lives differently than we do, and it’s perfectly okay. I am hoping my experience abroad will help me better understand that.

I often get the question of why I chose Florence to be the city where I study. To be honest, Florence was not my original choice. The original program I applied to filled up, so Florence it was. Although I do feel as if I would of done more research prior to applying, Florence would have been my first choice all along. Maybe everything does happen for a reason.

Located in the heart of Tuscany, Florence exuberates warmth. I have been here little over a week and this place has stolen my heart. As I walk down the curvy, cobblestone streets, I feel as if I have stepped back in time. Amongst the great cathedrals and The Duomo lay countless cafes, shops and restaurants to chose from. I love having the opportunity to visit all the different museums located around the city. The art is literally all around you.

"By the time the sun had set, I knew that Florence was where I needed to be."

Leaving home to move to a new country is frightening for anyone. It requires trusting in yourself that you will be able to adjust to the new culture of your home. On the fourth night of my journey, my roommates and I walked to the top of the Piazza Michelangelo where you can see panoramic views of Florence. The feelings of anxiousness and exhaustion faded away as we overlooked the city. By the time the sun had set, I knew that Florence was where I needed to be.

*Hannah Grahek is a communications studies major with a certificate in fundraising and philanthropy communication at the University of Iowa. The junior, originally from Oskaloosa, Iowa, will be spending her semester on the API program in Florence, Italy.