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Study Abroad: Urbino

By McKinley Culbert

Viva Italia

Wanderlust. Its’ a feeling that affects more and more students, especially amid the hustle and bustle of midterm papers and final exams. UTSA study abroad gets the attention of these students by sending them to programs in various locations around the world, where their experiences turn them into storytellers.

The COLFA Semester Abroad in Urbino, Italy is no exception. The students who sign on for this incredible experience benefit from all the aweinspiring ways that one can be affected by travel.

Urbino is a quaint city in the hills of the Marche region of Italy. It is home to some of the country’s most stunning views and warmest people. Urbino’s historic center is one of Italy’s 51 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The city is also well known for its university, L’Università degli Studi di Urbino Carlo Bo. Founded in 1506, the university is known for its innovative design by architect Giancarlo de Carlo.

UTSA students are a familiar sight in the town of Urbino. They find it easy to adjust to life alongside their Italian neighbors, taking in the essence of Urbino and the country of Italy. In the course of only one semester, they are creating memories that they will cherish for a lifetime.

Q & A with Camila Alarcon
College of Liberal & Fine Art, Department of Communication

Q: Why did you choose the COLFA Urbino study abroad program?
I learned about the Urbino program from a Tweet posted by UTSA. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I decided to go to the information meeting anyway. I was sold right away after learning about the city of Urbino. I was searching for a unique study abroad experience and living in a small Italian city like Urbino sounded ideal. I cannot express how glad I am to have checked Twitter that day!

Q: What are some misconceptions people have about studying abroad?
One of the biggest misconceptions I had about studying abroad was the idea that I was going to be terribly homesick. While the initial culture shock was a lot to handle, I was constantly looking forward to a new trip, seeing a new city, or learning more about Italian language and culture. I rarely felt homesick or wanted to return home, but by the end of the semester I was sad that the experience was coming to an end.

Q: What were the hardest things to adapt to while living abroad?
Adapting to a foreign place and the initial culture shock that comes with it hit me all at once. The first few days were somewhat surreal. Not understanding the language, adjusting to the time zone difference, and realizing that I was not going home for four months was a lot to deal with at first. However, I constantly reminded myself that the experience was not going to last forever and not one moment should be wasted. The initial shock only lasted a few days. The thing I missed most about home was having cell phone service anywhere, but I soon found an appreciation for the disconnect. It gave me the opportunity to soak in the experience to the fullest

Q: What did you take away from this experience?
Studying abroad has been one of the most altering and influential experiences of my life. Independence is a major strength I have taken away from it. Going into a completely foreign situation and not knowing a single person forced me to be flexible and open-minded. Traveling by trains, buses, and planes in countries where I don’t speak the languages left me with problem-solving skills and communication skills that I never knew I was capable of. You never know how quick on your feet you are until you get lost in the labyrinths of the Venetian canals or the metro system in Barcelona.

Q: How will your experience help you in the future?
I hope the skills I acquired while living abroad will help me in my future career. I adapt to new places. I am eager to learn more about different cultures and use what I learn to grow both professionally and personally.

Q: Was the language barrier a challenge?
Learning the Italian language was a lot more difficult than I imagined. Luckily, we had a great Italian teacher. It was also extremely fun to use what we learned in class, be understood, and realize that we could actually communicate in another language. Experiencing and realizing your own progress is a very rewarding feeling.

Q: What do you miss most about your experience abroad?
Everything! I miss being surrounded by different cultures and languages. Every day there were possibilities of learning something new or seeing a new place. Meeting people from around the world and seeing grand places like the Roman Colosseum or the Eiffel Tower in Paris made me realize what a small place I occupy in the world. It is incredibly humbling.