Alumni Q&A: Erin – Torino, Italy

1. Why did you choose the study abroad program that you did?

When I finally decided on Italy, people often asked me why. I told them “because I love Italian food!”

It’s true, but it is also true that the Torino program provided me with interesting classes that would transfer back to my home university as well as tuition that was similar to my current tuition. Between my personal interests in wanting to see Italy and the benefits of the Torino program, my choice was made!

2. If or when you study abroad again, where would you like to go? Why?

Somewhere new.

While Torino has a piece of my heart, and will forever, I would love to go to South Africa or perhaps somewhere in Central America. Experiencing new cultures and learning from those that are different from me is something that I will always cherish and respect. I hope to expand my travels as far around this planet as possible.

3. What are some of your favorite highlights from your time abroad?

Some of favorite times to reminisce on are from being right at home in the city of Torino with my best friends. Walking downtown on Via Garibaldi, sitting in Parco Valentino, and dining at local restaurants are amazing memories I’ll have forever. While I loved traveling to new cities, I appreciated my time in Torino even more.

Creating a home, meeting locals, and exploring my city in Italy will always be something I am thankful for; I’m so glad that I didn’t leave Torino every weekend!

A Torino sunrise along the Po River (photo by Erin Wilson)
A Torino sunrise along the Po River (photo by Erin Wilson)

4. In your experience, what are the major benefits of studying abroad?

Building confidence and patience. While living in a foreign country, especially when the language sounds like jibber-jabber, it can be easy to get frustrated when you don’t understand what or why something is happening. Overcoming obstacles, building independence, and realizing “I can do this” is something that I, and I’m sure many other alumni, can attest to.

I wouldn’t trade my semester of conundrums and adventure for anything; those experiences are the ones that built me into the person that I am today.

5. What was a funny cultural experience?

My parents came to visit me and we decided to go out to dinner at Eataly. We were hungry for a pizza and salad.

While attempting to read the menu (my Italian skills were limited) we each decided on a pizza and planned to order a salad to share. We thought about asking the chef what “Insalata con Polpio” meant, but I was sure that it was something fruity.

Not even close. We had ordered ourselves a bowl of raw octopus tentacles.

6. What did you learn about yourself?

I learned to be patient with myself and others, especially when in a new environment. It is so easy to judge and get frustrated with yourself and others at the drop of a hat when in a stressful, new situation, but more often than not there is a solution. By taking time to evaluate the circumstance and get input from all parties present, a conclusion can easily be made.

I also learned to let go of stress when in an uncontrollable situation – like when your train gets cancelled last minute! It will all work out in the end, trust me.

7. How did studying abroad change you?

Studying abroad changed me so much more than I thought it would.

I have always been an adventurous person, but living in and traveling around Europe taught me something that I will always be grateful for – to have an open mind. Being open to other people’s thoughts, beliefs, customs, and culture is something that all people should learn how to do.

8. What’s one thing you would have done differently?

Nothing. I am so grateful for every opportunity I took, every friend that I made, every place I saw, and every cone of gelato I ate.

9. Now that you’re home, how has study abroad impacted your life?

Prior to going abroad, I knew I loved to travel and experience/learn new things, but upon arrival back in the States I knew that I wasn’t satisfied.

Studying with USAC in Italy opened me up to an entirely new career option – international education. I hope to work in a field where I can help others go abroad, in any way possible, so they too can experience what I did!

10. How many years did it/will it take you to graduate?

Four years.

11. What, in your opinion, are the biggest myths students believe about study abroad?

That it won’t fit into their curriculum. There are thousands of programs with classes in hundreds of areas of study. By working in conjunction with your university advisors it is feasible for nearly any student with any major to go abroad!

12. What advice would you tell students trying to decide whether or not to study abroad?

There’s no decision, just go. Put in the time and effort that it takes to apply and go!

So many students get deterred by the thought of having to put in extra effort to make it work. Trust me, it is beyond worth it. You won’t regret it!

-Erin Wilson, Clemson University, studied in Torino, Italy.

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