Despite the rigorous course load required of the M&T Program, two degrees and studying abroad don’t have to be mutually exclusive. This summer I was fortunate enough to spend six weeks studying abroad in Venice, Italy where I was able to take courses in both Beginning Italian and Italian Culture & History.
There’s something to be said for the unique experience of studying abroad that allows you to immediately utilize what you learn in class — for example, learning about the Byzantine Empire and being able to see the architectural influences while walking to dinner; learning the names for different fruits in Italian then going to buy fresh fruit at the local market. Having spoken absolutely no Italian going into the program (perhaps aside from various pasta dishes), I definitely benefited from being able to practice speaking with locals, however elementary my newfound language skills might have been. Though I am by no means fluent now, I know enough to carry on a basic conversation (and most importantly, order gelato like a pro).
Outside the classroom, there was so much to explore. I can say with 100% confidence that there is no city in the world quite like Venice — it truly is a magical place. I never grew tired of the views of the Grand Canal and St. Mark’s Square each morning on my boat ride (yes, boat ride) to class. One of my favorite things about Venice is this sense of a lack of urgency — to put it simply, everything is slower. With no cars whatsoever, you have to walk the “streets” of Venice — that is, an endless labyrinth of alleys, canals, and bridges — to get from place to place. They say the best thing to do in Venice is to get lost, which is exactly what I ended up doing almost every night for dinner. In search of restaurants that were good but not too pricey, I stumbled upon hidden gem after hidden gem — I don’t think it’s even possible to get a bad meal in Italy. Then again, it’s hard to have a bad meal when all you’re eating is gelato, pizza, and pasta (which I was okay with!).
Aside from Venice, the program also sponsored weekend trips to Padua, Florence, and Asiago (yes, like the cheese). Each was beautiful in its own way and really gave me a sense of the richness and diversity of history and culture in Northern Italy. Six weeks almost seemed too short — there were many more cities in Italy that I had yet to explore, and may not get the chance to for awhile.
Though I’m admittedly glad to be home and back in the U.S., I’m incredibly grateful for the chance to have studied abroad without sacrificing any time (or credits) at Penn. Now that I’m in the beginning of my junior year, many of my friends will be abroad for a whole semester. Yet thanks to the Penn-in-Venice program and the amazing memories I’ve made this summer, I won’t feel like I’m missing out.