Don't get too comfortable with routine May 18, 2020

By (Middlebury College) - abroad from 09/05/2019 to 01/16/2020 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Florence

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned how to be comfortable being alone. I ate a lot of meals alone, went on lots of walks by myself, and generally spent most of my time solo. I honestly didn't mind it, but I learned that if people aren't around and aren't constantly reaching out to me then I'm the kind of person who will retreat into myself and stop seeking out interaction. Now I'm more of a person who seeks out opportunity and interaction instead of waiting for it to find me because I learned in Florence that if you don't look for what you want you won't find it.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

* Food:

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

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

Yes, but I would have more carefully considered my class choices, my living situation, and how I spent my time.

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)

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? ITAL0250
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Try to use the language outside of a classroom settings. I learned the most when I went out in Florence and made friends with Italians. Unfortunately, I noted that I probably only spoke Italian on average for 1-3 hours a day because I spent a good deal of time alone and didn't have many opportunities to use the language.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
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?
  • the people
  • the city
* What could be improved?
  • academic support
  • living options
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish that I really understood how hard it could be and that I had made more of an effort to find people to live with instead of living with two adults. They were very nice but I was often lonely and felt uncomfortable for a long time because I was living in someone else's established home and felt very confined to my bedroom. I also wish I had made an effort at the beginning to explore and meet more people instead of settling into a routine. It's really easy to get lazy about your experience and not make the effort to use the language, explore the city, meet new people, even spend time with people in the program. Our program group was really great but also we were all kind of reserved and didn't make much of an effort to socialize. I wish we had been more open and tried more things.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Outright Urbanite
A social butterfly, you're happiest in bustling cities with hip people, and took advantage of all it had to offer. You enjoyed the nightlife, and had fun going out dancing, and socializing with friends. Fun-loving and dressed to the nines, you enjoyed discovering new restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars in your host country.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Psicologia dello Sviluppo

Course Department:
Instructor: Lucia Ponti
Instruction Language: Italian
Comments: This class was far too difficult for me, and I expressed my concerns about that to the director of the Middlebury program in the second week of the course. I continued to struggle throughout the semester even though I added extra tutoring sessions (to the point that I was in class for 6 hours a week and tutoring for an additional 3 hours a week). The material would have been relatively challenging even in English as developmental psychology is a complicated topic and the exam asked very detailed questions about very specific aspects of the material, but the high level of Italian required to understand the professor and the textbook made the course nearly impossible. I studied 6 days a week for 5 hours a day for nearly two months leading up to the exam as if it were my full time job and I still received an 18/30 on the exam which is passing but translates to a D at Middlebury. With the added weight of my essays from my tutor session I ended up with a C in the course which is passing, sure, but in no way reflects the hours of work and effort that I put into preparing for the exam. Another frustrating part of this course is the fact that I had a written exam and part of the reason I did so poorly is a genuinely could not understand what several questions were asking even though I knew the actual concept it was asking about like the back of my hand. This is not to discredit any of my classmates, but I know students who took oral exams who said they completely didn't know the answer to several questions and felt like they did poorly but they received perfect 30/30 because oral exams are easier and Italian professors tend to grade foreign students less harshly when they give them a grade face to face. I'm saying this only to explain that written and oral exams in Italy are very different and written exams are often far more difficult and perhaps that should be taken into consideration. I really wish I had been able to take this course pass fail because I am honestly proud of the fact that I worked incredibly hard and even passed a class that was far too difficult for me, but unfortunately I now have a giant C on my transcript which has tanked my GPA (since I only took 3 total classes whereas I would have taken 5 throughout first semester and J Term at Middlebury this one course accounted for significantly more weight) and put a huge damper on my entire study abroad experience. It's clear to me that there need to be more options for students who realize that their courses are way too hard or maybe some sort of placement test to gauge language skills before throwing students into courses that they are not ready for, essentially setting them up to fail.
Credit Transfer Issues: No.
Course Name/Rating:

Letteratura Anglo-Americana

Course Department:
Instructor: Simona Agnese Porro
Instruction Language: Italian
Comments: This class was so fun as I am an American Studies major and I really appreciated the opportunity to study American literature and history but in Italian and with an Italian professor and Italian students. The work was easy for me as the novels were all in English, but the instruction, essays and my final oral exam were all in Italian. I think it was really enriching to be able to take something that I'm familiar with, American literature, and learn about it in a completely new context with the added challenge of the course being taught in Italian.
Credit Transfer Issues: No, but I am currently in the process of trying to get the course approved to count as an elective toward my major. Hopefully that will work out soon.
Course Name/Rating:

Letteratura Italiana

Course Department:
Instructor: Igiaba Scego
Instruction Language: Italian
Comments: The class was challenging in the sense that I often understood very little of what was going on in the actual lessons. The fact that we were in the same class as graduate students who had been studying Italian for almost a decade was really frustrating for both us and them. For us, when they participated the level was much too high, and for them it was frustrating to have to simplify their Italian and slow their learning especially since they were expecting high level Italian courses as graduate students. The actual assessments were not particularly challenging as they tested over very little of the actual material and Professor Scego adapted her evaluation to each student's language comprehension.
Credit Transfer Issues: No.