Written by Rebecca Kugler, (University of Virginia) Student Correspondent CET Siena, Spring 2016
I could not have thought of a more perfect place on earth than Charlottesville when I started my first year at the University of Virginia. Not only was it my dream school since I took a tour at age 5, but it was surpassing all of my academic, social, and cultural expectations. UVA classes were challenging me, I was making friends with new and unique people, and I was exploring a historically and culturally significant city. At the time, I could not imagine willingly giving up one of my precious eight semesters to study away from UVA.
I still hold the same opinion of UVA now as I did my first year. However, going to a university that attracts students from all corners of the world has allowed me to learn from peers who come from different backgrounds and who have had unique life experiences. But no matter how much I learn at UVA about considering things from other perspectives, I know that to truly learn another perspective you have to live that perspective. Once I finally decided at the beginning of my third year to study abroad, CET’s program in Siena seemed like a no-brainer. There was the promise that this ‘off the beaten path’ town would provide me with a unique and historically significant culture, great food, and the chance to sharpen my — non-existent — Italian language skills. Also, getting direct credit would be a plus. I started catching myself imagining my life in Siena while sitting in class at UVA or walking around Grounds, so I was ecstatic to find out that I got into the program!
No amount of Google searches or meetings with past students could have prepared me for my experiences in Siena so far. It is easy to get lost while trying to find obscure restaurants or buildings, but luckily every cobblestone street is picturesque and worth exploring. I am nowhere near fluent in Italian, but just after three weeks I have picked up useful phrases that help me interact with — very patient and helpful — Sienese people. I have made some great friends who make me feel like I have known them for years. Every day, I realize how fortunate and lucky I am to have found this life-changing program and I am so excited to experience my next few months in this special place I can already call home.