By: Samantha Hiebsch

I am currently abroad in Milan, Italy and I am loving it. I cannot believe that I am already over halfway done with my semester abroad. Read on to see what I have experienced so far.

First Impressions: My parents made the trip to bring me to Italy from the States. They helped move me in and get me settled in Italy. That included getting me a sim card, a public transportation card, and things for my room. They stayed for a week, and we traveled around Italy and then they left. We went to Venice, Florence, Pisa, Torre del Lago, and Genoa. After they left, I was all alone in a foreign country, and I knew no one. I felt nervous but also excited, because I knew I had a lot to look forward to. There is no one else from UA here. I am the only one. As classes started, I met new people and I also have a roommate. She is another American girl with whom I get along with very well. I still do not speak much Italian, but I am taking an Italian 101 class so, I am able to pick out a few words and phrases. The first picture I took abroad was of my hotel where I would be staying for the next 4 months.

My favorite thing about host location: My favorite thing about Italy is definitely the food. The quality of food here in Europe is so much better than in the Sates. They do not use all the preservatives we do, and it makes the food so much healthier. I am going to miss this the most when I get back.

Academics: My classes have not quite been going as planned. I am taking an Italian 101 class, a class about the Mafia in Italy (definitely my favorite), and a statistics class. The statistics class was a masters level class however, so I had to talk to the professor, and we came to an agreement about how I would be able to take the class and get credit for it. It was tough but I am so glad I made it through. I was also supposed to take a macroeconomics class, but it was also masters level and so I decided to withdraw from the class and take it back home over the summer.

Excursions: TRAVELING!!!! This has been the most fun part of my abroad semester. I have traveled almost every weekend and it has been amazing. It is so easy to get around here. Countries are so close together and it is relatively inexpensive to get around. I have been to Venice, Florence, Pisa, Torre del Lago, Genoa, and Cinque Terre, Italy; Interlaken and Zurich, Switzerland; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Paris, France; all over Germany; and Edinburgh, Scotland. And of course, I have more trips planned. I have traveled almost every weekend, but I am loving it. This week I am going to Sicily, Italy and next weekend I will be going somewhere as well but have anything planned yet. I traveled with people for most of my trips, but the last few have been by myself. I am finding that I really do enjoy traveling alone. I get to do anything I want and do not have to worry about other people. That being said, I have met some amazing people while solo traveling. I chose all these locations because I wanted to see them. It was as easy as that.

The Locals: To be completely honest I have met many more foreign people here than people from Italy. I did meet some Italians from one of my classes but that is pretty much it. Italians are pretty laid back and chill. They are very friendly and love meeting tourists. The biggest difference between the locals and myself is that they speak Italian and I do not.

The Language: The language that people speak here is Italian. I am slowly learning it, but only little by little. Since I am in Milan and it is a big tourist city, a lot of people speak English, so it has not been an issue. In some of the smaller restaurants, the owners only speak Italian, but we always find a way to understand each other. The stereotype that Italians speak with their hands is so true and I often find myself starting to do the same.

The Five Senses: I have seen many new places while being abroad from mountains, to lakes, oceans, rivers, and big cities. Everywhere is different and I love seeing it all. I have tasted so much good food here. Italian pizza and pasta are my favorite so I am always looking for a new hidden gem. Walking around Milan, I hear a lot of hustle and bustle. It is a pretty big city and has a lot going on. I have to talk about the food again when I talk about smells. Everything smells delicious and I am sad I have to leave soon. I feel so blessed to have been able to study here for a semester. It has been a dream come true.

Preparing to Return Home: My classes end at the end of May but then I have some friends coming from the States to travel with me for a few weeks. I am just trying to get through the end of classes and then the fun part can begin. I have not bought many souvenirs. A few pieces of clothing and small things are all that I am planning on bringing back. The memories are what I will hold on to forever. I am sad I will be going back to the States soon, but I have a lot to look forward to this summer and next school year. And of course, I can come back to Europe any time I want!