I spent my summer in Europe thanks to the International Experience Grant that
I received from the Honors College. With this grant, I was able to take part
in Indiana University's summer program in Florence, Italy. I spent six weeks
in Florence, studying renaissance art and art history. After this, I traveled
across Europe for three weeks and experienced the many beautiful countries and
cultures that exist on this continent.
As a BFA painting and art history major, studying renaissance art in Florence,
the place of it's birth, was literally a moving experience. To see works that
I thought only existed in books and also to live in the same city that housed
the masters, was amazing. I took a drawing class as well in Florence. This proved
to be a challenging and beneficial class. Drawing street scenes, landscapes,
figures, or anything for that matter, is always a challenge. However to do this
in a city where there are masterpieces lining churches and museums all around
you, made the action a bit more challenging. It was a wonderful and astounding
resource to be able to refer to a Michelangelo sculpture or a Botticelli painting.
The museums in Florence proved to be my most favorite pastime and the greatest
tool for any artist. The Uffizi and Pitti Palace house some of the most famous
and also not so famous (but just as wonderful) works.
Living in Florence for six weeks was such a wonderful learning experience.
Each day was an adventure. By buying food and asking for directions, I slowly
learned enough Italian to get by. Sadly, I found that like many places in
Europe, Florence has also become Americanized. English was just as prevalent
as Italian. Honestly, it was convenient to know that my waiter would be able
to converse with me in English. Yet, at the same time, I felt a little guilty
in knowing that through tourism, Italy has lost a small part of its culture
After my stay in Florence, I had the chance to see more of Europe. I went
to Salzburg, Prague, Lucerne, the Italian and French Riviera, and Paris. Three
weeks of trains, hostels, new places and people proved to be an exciting and
tiring time! I saw the Alps, the Mediterranean, the historic neighborhoods
of Prague, and then Paris. Each day I woke up with excitement, ready to go
and explore the new place we were in. And each night I fell asleep, and dreamt
of what tomorrow would bring. It was a beautiful and simple three weeks. My
only job was just to experience and see all that I could of a place. And I
I think the most valuable part about studying abroad and traveling through
Europe is everything that you take away from it. Souvenirs are great, but I
would trade them all back in for one more stroll along the Seine in Paris or
one more walk through the Uffizi in Florence. The greatest things that I took
away from this experience was an open mind. To go to another country where your
beliefs, standards, and manners are no longer the norm is a very overwhelming
and sometimes frustrating experience. Yet, it is so important to put yourself
in these situations where you can learn and observe how a culture exists outside
of the "American Way." It was very interesting to observe the actions and priorities
of native Italians and compare these to the stereotypes that we have given to
them. In summary, this summer was a humbling experience for me. I was the minority;
I knew nothing of how things worked. And in turn, I learned so much.
Traveling throughout Europe was of course also a time to learn and observe.
As I hoped from train to train and country to country, I felt this simultaneous
sense of empowerment and vulnerability. I was twenty years old and in Europe,
seeing what I wanted to see and going where I wanted to go. At times, like when
I stepped off of the train in a new place, I felt so invincible and felt sure
that I could do anything and go anywhere. Yet also, at these specific times,
I also felt extremely vulnerable. There I was in this foreign place, with everything
I owned and needed on my back. It was the precarious balance of the two that
made this summer so wonderful.
I also walked away for Europe with a newfound sense of simplicity. I traveled
for nine weeks with few material things: two pairs of pants, a skirt, two shirts,
and sandals. I can remember unpacking in Florence and wondering how I would
survive with few possessions. But I soon realized that the thrill and excitement
of a new place swiftly makes up for the fact that you've been wearing the same
jeans for a week. It was wonderful.
In summary, my summer in Europe was unarguably the most life-changing and
adventurous time of my life.