I remember my first semester at UNR, when I was walking around the club fair and I saw the USAC table. I knew well before I came to college that I wanted to study abroad in Australia or Italy. I went up and talked to the nice ladies at the table, grabbed a booklet and then shoved it somewhere in my room not to be seen or thought about again until I moved out of my dorm and threw it away.
School, work and relationships took over my life very quickly and the thought of studying abroad seemed to become less relevant and more out of sight than ever. When I thought of studying abroad, it was a passing thought and I had come to terms with the fact that it probably wouldn’t happen and I could just travel the world when I was out of college. Then one day, I was talking to my co-worker/friend Brian and he was saying he wanted to study abroad somewhere in Europe, most likely in Italy. We got to talking about that and he informed me that the due dates for the initial paperwork were coming up in two weeks. It was time for me to make a decision. I called my mom and asked her if studying abroad would even be an option for me. I sent her the information, she looked over it, and since many countries available in the program are actually more affordable then the tuition at UNR, it was a go.
I started to look into the different places in Italy, and Reggio Emilia was a more affordable program geared towards education and health majors. Not to mention the town looked absolutely beautiful on the google map images. So there I was, sitting at my computer, filling out the paperwork for the program. Everything fell together very quickly and easily and before I knew it, we were buying plane tickets to Rome.
Over the next months, as I got closer and closer to the date and started to get ready, I also started to get anxious. We made a group chat with all the people going so knowing everyone was feeling anxious helped some. There were days where I was sure I wasn’t mentally prepared to go and I was going to drop the program and just finish my college career at my home university with my friends where I was comfortable. Then, I had days where I was shopping for clothes and travel necessities ecstatic for my time abroad. And I continued to go back and forth like that up to the day I left.
I woke up at 3:45am, kissed my sleepy parents goodbye and my boyfriend drove me to the airport. I hiccuped as I cried at the “travelers only sign” and waved goodbye as I walked away from my boyfriend until he disappeared behind a wall. This was the first big step, an entire day of travel all by myself. With my trust stead Rome2rio, I found my way from the Rome airport to the train station to Reggio Emilia, only missing one train.
One of the first things I learned, is to go with the flow when traveling by train. People miss trains…. but there’s always more trains. I got a cab to the Hotel Posta and made a huge sigh of relief to see my first USAC person. The program assistant, Carlotta Bosi. She welcomed me with a kind smile and helped me check into my hotel room. Shortly after that, I met up with a few of the students and we walked around the town together sharing stories of our crazy travels to Italy.
When the rest of the group showed up a couple of hours later, the group just clicked. Everybody became fast friends, and I mean everybody. To finally have faces to the names of the people I’d been texting for months was so exciting. We’ve all hung out in big groups over the past couple days eating authentic Italian food, drinking delicious wine and wandering around the place that is our home for four months. And now, we’re sitting on the train on our way to the beach. I’m looking out the window, taking it all in that I am actually in Italy. Even through the worst anxiety, I stuck it through and I am so happy I did. Until next time, ciao.
Isabela Lentz is a USAC Reggio Emilia alumna and a University of Nevada, Reno student.