At the beginning of this year, I had the privilege to study abroad in Italy thanks to various generous scholarships I received from the University of Iowa. Ever since I came to Iowa as a freshman I knew I wanted to study abroad and finally my last semester at Iowa I was able to make my dream a reality.
In January 2022, I embarked on a journey from the United States to a small city called Reggio Emilia in northern Italy. My identity as a Latina woman influenced my study abroad experience for the better. Although I was the only Latina in my study abroad cohort, I did not feel isolated because my Colombian culture allowed me to easily form a bond with my Italian host family and immerse myself with their culture since it is so similar to Colombia’s.
"Deciding to leave your life behind for several months to start a new one in a new country with people you don’t know is difficult. However, it taught me how resilient I am and how I can power through the challenges of moving to a new country by myself."
During my semester in Italy, I learned a lot about Italy and their culture. My favorite part of Italian culture was how easily they take life. During the morning you will find people drinking coffee outside coffee shops talking with each other in no rush at all. On my walk to class, I would always find people standing outside store windows observing the new mannequin set-ups and window shopping with ease. Stores would close every afternoon for lunchtime and every Thursday and Sunday most shops would be closed as a family day. Their peaceful lifestyle is something that I took with me after my semester abroad and something I hope I continue to take with me. I hope I continue to slow down and take shop windows in, take my time with my morning coffee, and take time for myself during the day just as Italians do every day.
During my semester abroad, I learned a lot about myself. I discovered how resilient I am and how flexible I am. Deciding to leave your life behind for several months to start a new one in a new country with people you don’t know is difficult. However, it taught me how resilient I am and how I can power through the challenges of moving to a new country by myself. It also taught me that I am a flexible person and that I can adapt to new cultures quite easily.
Overall, I am so grateful for the semester I spent abroad. I formed beautiful bonds with many people in my study abroad cohort, with my Italian host family, and with other Italians. Spending five months abroad taught me a lot about myself, about Italy, and about the world.
Mariana Garcés Grajales (BA communication studies, '22), a Diversity Ambassador Scholarship recipient, participated in the USAC Reggio Emilia program in spring 2022.
LEARN HOW YOU CAN APPLY FOR A DIVERSITY AMBASSADOR SCHOLARSHIP
The Diversity Ambassador Scholarship program provides awards to study abroad for a summer, semester, or academic year. The scholarships are intended to support the diversification of students who study abroad. Upon completion of the study abroad program and return to UI, award recipients are asked to submit a photo and an open letter to prospective students or suggest an alternate means of sharing with prospective students.
Please note that the opinions and views expressed by diversity ambassadors are solely those of the students and do not reflect or represent the views of International Programs or the University of Iowa.
International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement. IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.