Abbey Shaffer, a junior pursuing a degree in interior design, studied abroad as part of Pathways: Walking Through Art and History in Siena in summer 2023.
It was important for me to go abroad because I’ve always wanted to travel to Europe and experience and understand a new culture. I adapted quickly to all the different changes and helped my peers do the same. The people I met and the people I went with in the program made the experience fun and memorable for me. I met a lot of locals who helped me understand the town of Siena and other social experiences.
I was surprised by how differently people lived but was excited to embrace the new lifestyle! Italian culture was so new to me and the biggest thing that surprised me was the mannerisms. Girls could walk home alone at night without any worry and strangers would come up to each other as common as ever. The prices also surprised me! A cappuccino and a croissant were only $2 and you could get a whole pizza for $7! In Italy, they’ve banned extra preservatives and GMOs in their food so it’s much healthier.
I learned that I love Italy! The most distinct memory I have was riding on the back of my friend’s motorcycle at dusk. He was taking me home back to Siena and I saw the end of the sunset over the hilltops. I remember how the fog settled between the valleys and how truly vast the Tuscan landscape was. It was honestly magical and it felt amazing. The little bit of light over the mountains illuminated the fog and it was breathtaking.
I want to move there someday and maybe stay for about a year, after I’ve established a sturdy career and made enough income to support myself. I’ve also learned more about the world than I could’ve ever imagined! It showed me that there is more to the world than just America and I’m not confined to living there my whole life.