How I Chose My Study Abroad by Makenna Kaminski

If you had asked me my freshman year if I were planning to study abroad, I honestly wouldn’t have known what to say. Part of me has always thought I’d go abroad, but another part of me was terribly scared by the thought of doing so.

I tend to have an adventurous spirit, but I’ve still never been outside of the U.S. I was so attached to my home school, the College of Charleston, and the thought of leaving my beloved city for a semester was borderline painful.

Yet, the moment my sophomore year ended, I knew I was meant to go abroad.

I’m not sure whether it was seeing my classmates travel or something changing in me, but there came a day where I could no longer imagine not going abroad. After this day, the picture of me packing my bags and flying overseas was instilled in my mind.

So, being a girl with practically no knowledge of the world outside of my small hometown, how did I decide where to study? How could I filter between the dozens of countries and cities available to me?

It was a difficult decision, but it all came down to a few factors.

After months of research, I settled upon a program in Sorrento, Italy. But first, I had to decide on choosing an affiliate provider over studying with one of my school’s programs. I chose to go with an affiliate because this opens up so many opportunities students don’t have otherwise. Most universities only offer a few programs each semester, each with a specific major attached which limits the options more. With an affiliate, you can travel to practically any country or city you could think of and then easily find programs to match your coursework.

The provider for my program in Sorrento is Academic Studies Abroad (ASA). They act as a third-party between my home university and host university, soon to be the Sant’Anna Institute. This simplifies the process of transferring and makes the life of the student much easier.

Before I decided on my program with ASA I was given thousands to choose from. This was equal parts exhilarating and overwhelming and I was so confused on where to go. Should I spend my next semester eating croissants in Paris, or tapas in Spain? Would I be on the beach in sunny Australia or walking with my umbrella in rainy London?

Out of all of the programs in the world, how did I decide on Sorrento?

When asked this, I have to admit that I first looked into Italy simply because I felt like everything was drawing me towards there. I always thought I’d go to Spain since I spent nine years learning Spanish. Yet, something about Italy pulled me in so much that I was willing to learn a new language to study there.

My junior year of high school, I read Jenna Evans Welch’s Love and Gelato, a book that changed the course of my life forever. The book is a classic coming-of-age story about a girl in Florence. It follows the teenage girl, Lena, who travels by herself to Italy, following the footsteps of her mother through her journal. I immediately felt such a connection between myself and the main character through her exciting, new experiences and her personal growth.

This book is the whole reason I started journaling and seriously writing to begin with. All because of Lena’s life-changing tale, I’ve never been able to get Italy off my mind.

Something about Italy was just so alluring. There was something more than just the picturesque landscape and gelato. I felt in my bones that there was something more waiting for me there. I even tried to study abroad in Barcelona last Summer, and the whole thing fell through, possibly for a reason.

Beyond this, one thing that attracted me even more to Italy was its culture. Italy is built upon a tremendous love for food which is something that has always been appealing to me. Living in the U.S, I have grown so tired of spending days stuffing down fast food or cheap frozen meals as an excuse for dinner. I’ve worked in catering for years, and my favorite thing is to see a group of people brought together to eat and celebrate with food.

To Italians, food is their life. And I find it so inspiring.

I wanted to eat this food first-hand and appreciate all the love and effort put into a meal. This was the Italian specialty after all.

Then there is also the beautiful history of Italy, so enriching to this day. Italy is one of the oldest and most culturally influential countries in the world, offering sights that tie us back thousands of years. The buildings, the streets, the gardens. Everything has a story.

Once I decided on Italy, my options now branched to the many cities there. My choices began as Rome versus Florence, two equally art-filled, vibrant cities.

But then I found Sorrento.

Beautiful Sorrento. A smaller, compact, lesser-known town located on the stunning Amalfi peninsula. Located right next to Naples, Sorrento offers a more temperate climate, luscious lemon groves, quiet gardens, and awe-inspiring cliffs overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Sorrento also offers a quiet pace surrounded by Italian-speaking locals to offer an authentic experience. And then a dorm building with views worth millions.

When I saw the profile for the Sant’Anna institute through ASA’s website, I knew that I found my future home. The school is study abroad specific, so I would be in classes with others studying abroad like myself, which was much less scary than transferring to an Italian school.

It had everything I could ever want. And much, much more.

The Sant’Anna Institute offers classes in both my majors (English and Hospitality), so I could stay on track at CofC. It also has dorms in the same building as my classes, which makes me feel much safer than getting an off-campus apartment by myself. The school also has stunning lemon groves and gardens right on site, where I could study and spend free time enjoying the beautiful nature. Seeing this, I could already picture myself sitting outside with a journal in hand, writing for the creative writing course I immediately was dead-set on taking.

And, did I mention the views?

I knew that in Rome or Florence, I would be pulled right back into the hustle and bustle of city life. Yet, Sorrento seems to offer the slower lifestyle that the Italians love to refer to as “la dolce far niente”, the sweetness of doing nothing. This is something that everyone who knows me can vouch that I need in my busybody life.

In Sorrento I hope to find a lifestyle fulfilled by taking a step back and enjoying all Italy has to offer.

I know I made the right choice in choosing Sorrento, Italy for my study abroad. I have no doubt that here I will learn so much about both the world and myself, changing my life the minute I slow down and step foot on the beautiful historic coastline.

Stay tuned, because I hope to write about it all every step of the way.

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