Editor’s Note: The following is an article written by Honors sophomore Ann Cox. She wrote this in her last few days of the Italy Study Abroad program, which has since ended. Though all students have come back to America, Cox is staying in England until mid-December.
I am an Honors International Studies major concentrating on conflict resolution. I’ve spent the past three months with a Meredith program in the Tuscan town of Sansepolcro, Italy. My time in Italy has changed my life for the better and helped me find direction for my future. I have learned so much and grown such a great deal. I have begun to learn a beautiful language, which has given me the confidence to study new languages in the future as I work and travel around the world. I have traveled all over Italy independently, gaining life skills that will help me in the future. My favorite experiences include exploring the streets of Venice, climbing Mount Vesuvius in Herculaneum, and taking a boat around the Isle of Capri. Traveling alone in a foreign country, I have had to learn patience, flexibility, adaptability, and develop instincts about people and places in order to stay safe while on my own. I have also gained more skills in standing up for myself, increased my spontaneity, and found ways to make educational and exciting travel affordable.
Learning in a small town with a Meredith program has been a gift. Sansepolcro is such a beautiful and welcoming place. I feel so lucky to be continuing my Meredith education in a place where I get to interact regularly with non-English speakers and observe true Tuscan culture, rather than be in a large city surrounded by tourists. It’s been a treat to befriend members of the community, become a regular in local cafes, and student-teach in English classes at two Italian high schools. This kind of immersion is unique and it has taught me how to live as a foreigner in a different culture and not only to get by, but also to contribute to the community. This skill will follow me my whole life.
In addition to our time in Italy, we had the opportunity to spend the better part of a week in Poland as part of a program for study abroad students run by the Auschwitz Jewish Center. We were given educational tours of the concentration camps and of synagogues and important places for the Jewish community in Krakow. We were also led in thought-provoking discussions about post-war cultures and how different people overcome large-scale violence. This opportunity not only taught me a lot about my field but also showed me a wealth of possibilities for people like me who want to contribute to rebuilding communities entrenched in conflict and to find nonviolent solutions to tensions stemming from racial, political, or religious differences. Getting to know the people who work for this program opened my eyes to what my future may look like and helped me begin to truly shape the trajectory of my career, and it wouldn’t have been possible without Meredith College and my time abroad.
It is difficult to leave such a beautiful place, but I know that this is just the start of my life as a world traveler and that I will be bringing back so much with me and will continue to grow from this experience every day.
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