Changing Your Outlook on Life – Alumni Q&A – Viterbo, Italy

College: Chico State

Major: Journalism

Year studied abroad: Spring 2015

Why did you choose to study in Viterbo?

I was originally going to study abroad in Turkey. I switched at the last minute because I loved the sound of the language and, of course, the food.

How did your experience differ from your expectations?

I don’t remember exactly what I expected. I didn’t expect such a wide range of dialects. That I certainly wasn’t prepared for, but learning regional slang was one of the best parts of learning Italian. I also didn’t expect this one semester of college to change my outlook on life. More on that later.

What is one thing that you would have done differently?

I wish I had stayed longer. I studied abroad my last semester of college and had to travel back for graduation, but I have always wished that I had stayed through the summer.

What surprised you the most about Viterbo?

I knew that I was going to love the food. (I think I gained 20 pounds that semester.) But I am surprised by which turned out to be my favorites and most memorable. The kebabs were addicting, as well as the giant balls of mozzarella. I didn’t even know what kebabs were, but those and midnight cornetti turned out to be our late-night street food. By the way, kebabs in Europe are like gyros in the United States, they’re inexpensive and delicious. A cornetti is an Italian croissant! My absolute favorite was the horse burgers from Tony Crock Street Food. Yes, I said horse. And no, I’m not taking it back.

What was your favorite course from your time abroad, and why?

I really did love all of my courses. My language professor was always so kind and bubbly, and my art instructor taught me so much about the images I had seen and read about my whole life. I think my absolute favorite would have to be photography. Alessandro made me fall in love with photography all over again. He was an incredible teacher and mentor.

What was your favorite field trip or personal travel destination?

It’s a three-way tie. My favorite field trip was Civita di Bagnoregio. Both because the dying city looks magnificent in photos but even more beautiful/eerie/breathtaking in person, and because that bus ride was where I met my now fiancé.

My other two favorites were personal trips: Palermo, Sicily and Dublin, Ireland. Palermo is so different and yet so Italy. You can see it in the architecture and the food. I ate a lot of street food during my study abroad experience, and Palermo took the Sicilian cake.

I went to Dublin accidentally. It’s a long story, but basically, I didn’t have a return ticket home from London. When my visiting friend headed home to the States, I realized that flying to Dublin, staying in a hostel and flying to Rome was all cheaper than a last-minute ticket from London to Rome. So, I went on my first solo adventure. I got to play Portmarnock, a beautiful and famous golf course, with a few lads that treated me like a daughter. Everyone was so friendly. I could stand on a street corner with a map and just wait for locals to come up and ask me if I needed help and where I was headed (it only took a few seconds). My favorite direction was when an older gentleman told me to follow specific graffiti on the sidewalk and walls. I ended up in a pub that James Joyce used to stumble out of. How cool is that?! (I’m a book nerd.) Not only that, but the Masters was on every screen in the city (and probably the country), and as a college golfer this was something I reveled in. I cheered on my favorite player, Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, alongside passionate locals that cheered like it was the Super Bowl. I found my people.

I also ventured to Lisbon, Portugal because a Buzzfeed quiz told me I should live there. It was right. The food, rich porto and mosaic-paved streets were hard not to fall in love with.

Honorable mentions: A road trip through Spain where our car broke down in a town we still can’t remember the name of. Our tow-truck driver dropped us off at a white table-clothed restaurant where we couldn’t read the menu (in Catalan) and just pointed to random dishes. The best meal I ever ate in Europe. Then there were Amsterdam, Venice, Assisi (our second date was to a castle!), Florence, Cinque Terre, Lucca (seriously, a hidden gem), Naples, Perugia and, of course, Roma, which will always have a special spot in my memory.

What did you learn about yourself during your study abroad?

I learned that traveling alone isn’t as scary as it sounds. Just be smart. It was one of my favorite parts of my trip. It was reflective, and I met a lot of interesting and wonderful people that I might not have met if I was stuck in a group bubble. Also, acro yoga is a great workout and way to meet people.

How has study abroad impacted your life since you returned?

It has impacted my life in some big ways. Like I mentioned before, I met Danny there. My best friend and now fiancé. We went on many spontaneous adventures together and continue to share that love of travel. I would also say that the solo trip – and my time abroad as a whole – taught me how big the world is, that there are a lot of great people in it and you get what you make of it. Cliché, yes, but there’s a reason we use clichés. It’s because they’re right. My favorite phrase that I wore on my bracelet since leaving Italy reads “do coio coio.” It’s Roman slang and could be interpreted as “where I strike I strike” or “where I fall I fall.” Because of my time abroad, I keep that mantra with me through each challenge and triumph.

What advice do you have for future study abroad students?

Do coio coio.

Quinn Western studied abroad in Viterbo, Italy in 2015.