Before arriving in Italy, I thought myself mad for not being overly thrilled to live in another country for three months. Most study abroad students I spoke with could only describe their continuously fueled excitement and amazement for living in a foreign land. I, however, was scared beyond reason. Not scared to be away from family or friends or my cats – no, I was scared of myself – scared of the change that might happen within myself in those three long months.
I have been at the Accademia for three weeks now, and truthfully, I am still scared and not in a state of hyperbole excitement. But instead, I feel like I have a “temporary” home in the Tuscan town of Arezzo, and the feeling of a home brings the wonderfulness of family. The Accademia family developed so quickly. Little did I know coming into this program that I would meet some of the most incredible people and form some of the strongest friendships of my life.
Yeah, yeah. I know. It has only been three weeks. But, who cares? Lilo put it best. “Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” I have not been left behind. I have continuously been uplifted, supported, encouraged, and loved. And who could ask for more? I realize now that I am happier and more content in Arezzo because I am not burbling out with excitement. I now see that living abroad is not just a memory that eternally remains packed away in the photo albums and journals. Rather, it is a learning experience that changes one’s life permanently. Arezzo is my home, and in some way, it always will be. And that my friends is the beauty of travel; you get to leave pieces of your heart all over the world. The world is with you, and you are with the world forever.
– Kristen Murdaugh
Before coming to Italy, I was unsure what to expect when I arrived here at the Accademia dell’Arte. I had been abroad before, but not to Italy, and not for a whole semester. Just the length of the stay was intimidating–not to mention the language barrier and unfamiliarity of the European way of life. The things I had read online did not help either; I saw warnings of no hot water or effective washing machines and countless lists of what to wear and what not to wear, most of which contradicted each other. By the time I was ready to leave, I was expecting Arezzo to be a sleepy little suburb of Florence with friendly locals but little else. I was expecting the Accademia to be set up more like a community college inside of which the music department would operate as more or less an independent unit.
When I got here, I was surprised at the fact that Arezzo was slightly larger than my hometown, and obviously completely separate from Florence (the train ride to Florence was a little longer than I was expecting as well). I was right about the locals being friendly, but they were not the kind of small town suburbia people that I thought they would be. Since being here, there has been something going on every weekend and the centro is always full of a mix of tourists and locals walking around, buying pizza and gelato, and shopping.
I think the most unexpected thing about ADA life has been the community that we live in. The villa is nothing like a school, more of a home that we happen to have classes in sometimes. The students here all live together, take classes together, and eat together, which creates a family dynamic and fosters camaraderie between students in different majors.
Living at the villa, in Italy, away from everything familiar was definitely an adjustment, but I have quickly come to love living in Arezzo and studying at the Accademia dell’Arte. Three months no longer seems like an insurmountable period of time, but an exciting opportunity to learn and grow as a musician and as a person.
– Abigail Hart
When first hearing that I was going to be studying abroad in Italy, I honestly did not know what to expect. All I really had to go off of were the comments and stories I was told by friends who were previously involved in the program. They would tell me about Arezzo, how they never really interacted with the theater students, and how their semesters at the Accademia dell’Arte were the best semesters of their lives. Even after all of their stories, I had no idea what to expect, especially since I had never travelled internationally before. I set certain goals for myself, both academically and personally, but just decided to “go with the flow” on everything else.
However, upon arriving in Italy, many things have happened that I never expected would. First being that Arezzo and Italy are far more beautiful than any words or pictures could ever describe. Also, I did not expect for everyone to get along as well as we have. Even though the music students already knew each other, we have become even closer as one big family, as cliché as it may sound. Also, the music and theater students are always interacting with each other, unlike from what I had heard about previous years. Each of us are all so different and have different personalities and goals, and yet we just all fit in with each other. Everyone is so supportive towards everyone else in this program, and I am extremely thankful for that.
I have also been surprised by the atmosphere of the Accademia and of Italy. Everything is so laid back, yet I am always motivated to be doing something productive. Being in this atmosphere, I am constantly finding myself wanting to become a better person, a better musician, a better student, and a better artist.
If anything, my experiences in Italy so far are making me more and more happy that I studied abroad. Even though I miss my family and South Carolina every day, I am so glad I participated in this program. I have learned so much already, met and become close with so many people, and I love being constantly surrounded by art, history, and inspiration.
– Savannah Hinson