Last year Augustana college sent me an email about the possibilities of studying abroad. Since I had just transferred in and started new classes, I hadn’t really considered it. Plus, I had always thought it would cost too much. And even if it not, where would I start? I decided to check into it anyway. The more I read about it, the more I began to envision actually being there, and could see that this might actually be possible! And now – as unbelievable as it still seems – the plan is to study in Florence, Italy this fall.
I’ve always loved learning about other cultures, and had a desire to travel for as long as I can remember. It may have begun with penpal letters written back and forth as a young girl. Each letter was filled with pictures and detailed descriptions live and culture across the world. I looked forward to each letter, amazed by how we had so much in common and yet lived two different lives across the world. I also remember hearing stories of my Great Aunt Laura who was a missionary to Madagascar. I wondered what hardships and joys she encountered there. Then there was my good friend in high school who traveled abroad each year. After each trip, she was bubbling with excitement, eager to share all her stories and adventures.
I think each of these stories and letters filled me with an awareness that there is so much more in life experience and explore, and a curiosity to do so! Whether in a tiny, rural town of 5,000 or far away, beyond the country border, over the ocean, and around the globe, there is always more. I do love living in the mid-west, but curiosity and hunger for growth invites me to step outside my familiar comfort zone and into a new territory, particularly, Florence, Italy.
This is one of my goals in life, and also for my semester abroad in Florence: explore! I want to saturate myself into their culture, and learn to see life from a broader perspective. I want to learn their language, try their foods, walk where they walk, see their history, develop relationships with the Florentines, and hear about their daily lives and what is important to them. It would be easy to just observe and take note of this as a distant outsider, but I truly desire to jump right in and be present, be an active participant, and be where I am. I would love to experience first-hand what it is like to live there and learn about their culture.
One part of Florence’s culture that I am particularly interested in is their art. This is my motivation for choosing Florence as my destination. I would like see and experience art as well as receive the unique art training and education in this city that is known as the art capital of the world. I’ve learned so much about Italy in my art history classes the last few months, but I would love to walk down the cobblestone streets and see these places; the gardens, architecture, parks, churches, and galleries full of paintings and sculptures. It’s one thing to read about art in a book, but another thing to encounter it face to face. I believe that even just a few months spent in Florence will serve to enrich my life as an artist as well as a person.
Ultimately, I know that my life is in God’s hands, and as we walk together, He is the one leading and guiding me into new places. He motivates me to step outside my comfort zone, because He is my comforter. His love is so great, and so my main desire is to be love, to share His love with those I meet in life. Already He has given me a heart for the people of Florence, and my future fellow classmates there, and I’ve been praying for our experience there together. I am excited to learn and grow with and from them. I believe that those of us who are preparing for this fall semester in Florence are not coming by coincidence, but that God is an amazing planner, and He is already preparing our hearts for experiences, relationships and connections that will last beyond our time here.
Entrance of SACI (Studio Arts Center International)