Traveling to Florence, Italy was an incredible opportunity for me to expand my world view. Staying with a host family in a residential area of the city allowed me to be fully immersed in the culture, learning about the food, language, and other daily practices of Italians. In the classroom, I gained a vast amount of knowledge about Mediterranean food and culture in the span of only 3 weeks. My professor (Professor Fischer) took my class on many walking tours of the city, where we got to try a variety of authentic Italian dishes and see much of the city’s history. As my first experience outside of the U.S, every second of my study abroad journey was new and exciting and has helped me gain a further appreciation for other cultures that I could not understand before experiencing one first-hand.

While traveling in Florence, I was surprised to encounter so many Italian people who spoke fluent English and had a lot of knowledge about the United States. As a foreign person in their country, I did not have a ton of understanding about the language, government, or cultural practices of Italy when I first arrived, but it seemed that every Italian person I spoke with had insightful inquiries about these same parameters regarding the U.S. On this same note, I was shocked by how much I was able to learn about Italian culture in such a short time span. For example, I had the pleasure of engaging in celebrations for the Festa della Repubblica in Rome, Italy, including the annual wreath laying ceremony, military parade, and jet fly-over. It was amazing to experience these traditions in-person, especially since I had not even known they existed prior to visiting the country.

With the information I learned in my class, Mediterranean Food and Culture, I plan to continue my endeavors in finishing my Nutrition Science major and continuing onto medical school. The knowledge from this class can be directly applied to a healthy diet (The Mediterranean Diet), which is known to be helpful for extending life expectancy. I plan to use my new understanding about the diet and lifestyle of Italians as a potential guide when making recommendations to clients/patients for improving health as a professional in the medical field.

I feel very grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in this study abroad program. Coming from a small town that lacks much cultural diversity, traveling to another country and being immersed in a completely new culture I had no prior experience with allowed me to dramatically expand my understanding of the world. I truly feel that every aspect of my world view has been altered for the better now that I can say I have traveled outside of the United States!

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