Last year I decided to spend my summer in a small town in Southern Italy called Lecce in the region of Puglia. No one spoke English, or if they did it was limited, it was at least 90º every single day, and I had never been away from my friends and family for so long. Practically no one outside of those who live in Italy has heard of it but the months I spent there were the best of my life. I was on a program that advertised itself as an “intensive Italian program” so of course I had to learn a lot of Italian—and fast.
Beyond the memories I have of lush Italian beaches and travelling around the Mediterranean, I cannot truly put into words how rewarding it was to experience nothing but complete Italian culture for my entire summer. Sure, my Italian language has dwindled since my return, but what I find most important is the sense of culture I got from my trip abroad. I understand Italians and their ways of life from the blessed siesta—which I think should be implemented everywhere—to how Italians live in day to day life, as I lived with a host family while I was there.
I was wary when I first arrived in Italy; I certainly had culture shock and had major FOMO (fear of missing out) from home. I had moments where I strongly wanted to go home and I felt out of place in my new home. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made was to stick it out. I am a firm believer that every university program should have an element of study abroad. It changes you for the better through all kinds of different experiences. Whether you go to an English-speaking country or a town that doesn’t speak a lick of English, whether you go abroad for a year or a month, whether you study the language or a business: being in a different culture, a different time zone, a different area where you can’t get back to what is familiar is so special and so important to experience.
Stepping outside of my comfort zone—in this case by a few thousand miles—has been one of the best experiences of my life. Studying abroad teaches you so much and forces you to grow as a person. You discover aspects of yourself that you hadn’t ever explored before. The only thing I took away from my time in a tiny, isolated, beach town in Italy were positive memories and positive steps forward in my life—no matter how scary it seemed at times!
My name is Meagan Donovan and I’m a 19 year old junior at Chapman University in Southern California. I am double majoring in theater studies and public relations/advertising, emphasizing my studies in the entertainment industry. A fun fact about me is that I’ve been performing since I was in third grade and I love writing my own songs, playing guitar, learning new dance forms, and acting in plays and musicals.