Living in Italy as an American

Living in Italy as an American was one of the most exhilarating parts of the entire trip. You are in all senses of the phrase in a whole new world. At first I thought it would be intimidating and that the Italians would dislike us. I was afraid I would insult them with one of my customs or with my lack of skill in the Italian language. But this proved unproblematic. I can honestly say I did not have a single incident in which someone mistreated me or I felt like the odd man out. The Italians were open and welcoming.

Studying Abroad in Italy: Social Culture

My study abroad program over the summer was coordinated through Florida International University’s Honors College. The Honors College is a separate entity within FIU that selects students based on merit (GPA, SAT, community service, extracurricular activities etc.), as well as an essay application in order to be part of the program. The six-credit course taken in Italy is actually one of the ways in which students can complete their fourth-year requirement.

Studying Abroad in Italy: Academics

This summer I embarked on the greatest adventure of my life. I was one of the 24 students who visited Italy for the entire month of May with Florida International University’s Honors College program. My study abroad experience was absolutely exhilarating and I would recommend it to all students. I don’t say this only because of the nights filled with fun or the breath-taking views, but also because of all I learned.

South Africa: Mullets, Brus, and Minibus Taxis

When asked to describe why I love being in Cape Town, South Africa for a semester of study abroad, I usually mutter something about the exchange rate and the scenery before whomever it is I’m talking to loses interest. But there is more to living in Cape Town than natural beauty and a currency that is so devalued it feels like I am shopping in 1990.   Here are some exceptional elements of life in South Africa.

A Rugby Game in Stellenbosch

We had just arrived in Stellenbosch, South Africa for an intervarsity rugby game between Stellenbosch University and the University of Cape Town, where I am spending a semester abroad. The bus ride over had departed an hour later than promised, which meant, by South African standards, it was on time. The Americans had been the first to arrive at the bus pickup on campus, punctual and sober. Half an hour later, South African students donning white construction outfits decorated, cast-like, with signatures, slogans, and profanities in blue paint marched loudly to the bus. Each carried his or her own two-liter of alcoholic cream soda.

Living Abroad in South Africa

From the deepest, darkest depths of your imagination, summon Africa.  Think of lions and elephants, venereal disease and dictators, Simba and Robert Mugabe, of Toto, machetes and corruption.  As a study abroad student at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, my Facebook wall is littered with pleas to not get shot or get AIDS, but return with a fistful of Ivory and Blood Diamonds. And believe me, the moment I see Leonardo hustling rocks at a street corner, I will make the proper enquiries.

The University of Cape Town Accommodations

My sophomore year dorm room at Wash U had a 38″ high-definition TV, two refrigerators, unlimited high-speed internet, a comfortable couch, and an Xbox 360. I don’t mean to brag, but my flat at the University of Cape Town — where I am spending my fall semester — has a microwave. All of the other Americans living in the Leisbeeck Gardens residence are envious, but we all have our little indulgences. Some of them even have showers; I have no sympathy.

Social Life at the University of Cape Town

In retrospect, I still think my pre-departure expectations were reasonable. I was going to Cape Town for a semester, to make lots of African friends, to have the time of my life, and to reconsider my life place in this world. Maybe I should have learned something from my freshman year at Washington University in Saint Louis about thwarted expectations, but there it was: a view of me on some gorgeous beach I’d seen on some Google image search, speaking Xhosa, Afrikkans, and English interchangeably with a posse of beautiful, multiracial friends.