Humbling Cultural Experience September 16, 2019

By (Communication, University of Massachusetts Amherst / UMass) - abroad from 01/13/2019 to 05/04/2019 with

CISabroad (Center for International Studies): Sorrento - Semester on the Italian Coast

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Definitely how to expand my comfort zone! Going to Italy ALONE was terrifying, but knowing everyone was in the same boat was awesome. And, the more I travelled, the more I realized that the initial hesitation of new experiences is something everyone experiences, and it doesn't necessarily go away with age!

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

It was very cool to have professors who were Italian - it definitely opened up some conversations about cultural differences! Yet, there were some BIG differences in teaching/learning styles between American universities and Sant'Anna Institute (the abroad institution in Sorrento). Many times, projects and papers were left very open-ended; this fostered some critical thinking, but also created a lot of confusion amidst the students, who are used to having deadlines and rubrics. Definitely a difference between American and abroad institutions that I would recommend looking into if possible (ie talk to someone who went to your specific program and ask them about their classes).

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Super awesome and involved staff! They helped me with questions regarding everything from local events to bus/train timetables!

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

It was awesome to live in a dorm, especially one that has been updated recently! And the views... ugh so amazing. I miss watching the sunsets over the Mediterranean! However, if you are looking for a great deal of cultural immersion, this program may not be for you since you eat, sleep, and have classes with only Americans.

* Food:

TO DIE FOR. I loved all the local restaurants - and food was pretty reasonably priced, especially compared to bigger cities like Naples, Rome, Florence, etc.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Again, like I said before, the institution really grouped American students together, so the living experiences was not so integrative. However, there were certain cultural events that I was able to attend (namely the Easter processions) in which I felt completely involved in the local traditions. It was unbelievably humbling and eye-opening.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I personally had no health issues while I was abroad, but my roommate did, and she was tended to very quickly and efficiently! A doctor who spoke English actually came to the dorms to check her at one point, which was great if you have some kind of stomach bug. Italy is pretty safe in terms of health issues, so I basically just got my flu shot and was good to go!

* Safety:

Since Sorrento is a pretty small city, and in the spring it was off-season for the most part, I felt very safe. As a student, people were generally very friendly to me, and wanted me to have a good time!

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

Sorrento was a nice small town which made it easy to be comfortable there! Not overwhelming, but still tons to see and explore like the nearby towns of Positano and Amalfi as well as the Island of Capri and site of Pompeii.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Living expenses were pretty easy to manage, but it did require some budgeting. The most expensive part was traveling since Sorrento does not have an airport in the city. Rather, you had to take a train to Naples then fly from there. The airfare also was a little pricier as well since the airport is pretty small.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $150
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? BUDGET. I know this may sound easy, but track what you spend: from restaurants, to clothes-shopping, to travel expenses. It's good to look back on a week and reflect on your spending habits, especially when you get down to those last few weeks!!

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Food
  • Traveling Opportunities
  • New Friends
* What could be improved?
  • Interaction between staff and students in the dorm
  • Internships
  • Excursions
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had known that placement in certain classes can be tricky: I was in a little bit of a crunch with my major and was not able to get the classes I wanted, so I ended up having to take some summer classes after returning home. Definitely a bummer, but still an amazing experience.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

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The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.