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Chelsea Fife, Penn State
ISI Florence Spring 2017

A day does not go by without thinking about the people I met, the food I ate, and the memories I made during my time abroad. It seems that every event I face in America somehow relates to my study abroad experience. Whether it is seeing Facebook friends traveling around Europe and posting pictures that make me want to return that minute, or applying to graduate schools and having admissions offices ask about my time in Italy, I am constantly being reminded of the best four months of my life.

My goal in life is to become an Occupational Therapist. I knew since the beginning of college that I wanted to study abroad, but I was told that since I was a science major it might be hard to because of my course load. I did not let this stop me, and I am glad I did not. While abroad, I was lucky enough to take part in the ISI Florence CEP 201 “Cultural Engagement Practicum: Critical Disabilities Studies. This allowed me to work in a restaurant and assist the staff members with disabilities. Once a week I traveled thirty minutes by train from Florence to Pontassieve. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I had to overcome many obstacles, the biggest being the language barrier. Out of the twelve staff members only one knew broken English. It encouraged me to collaborate in different ways. I used hand gestures or took my time to explain myself. I learned that not everything in my career is going to be easy, but overcoming challenges I must face will be the greatest reward.

My experience abroad would have been very different had I not taken part in this practicum. I would not have had the perseverance to practice my Italian as much as I did. Since I also traveled alone to the restaurant every week, I was encouraged to travel by myself to Southern Italy to visit my family and friends at the end of the semester. I became so much more independent because of the experiences I had while studying abroad. I know I will return to Florence one day. It may be for a family vacation, a friend reunion, or my career. I am up for any and all of these options because I will be happy to be back in my favorite place.