Travel Abroad Programs – Always Choose the Hidden Gems

Ciao a tutti! Are you an education student looking for travel abroad programs? Good news – there’s a place out there that allows you to study abroad and build on your education degree.

Located in Northern Italy is a town not familiar to most. Authentic Italian conversation floods its cobblestone streets, as scents from the afternoons Apertivo’s fill the air. This little town is known for creating the country’s flag, and better known for their Early Childhood Education method – The Reggio Approach.

The study abroad program through USAC in Reggio Emilia, Italy will give any college education student what they’re hoping for & then some. And if you’re anything like me, this program will be life-changing for you, too.

Take education courses with USAC in Reggio Emilia during a travel abroad program

Study Abroad Program in Reggio Emilia

Before going to college I knew I wanted to study abroad. I wasn’t sure where I would go or when I would be able to, but I knew I was going to make it happen. I also knew that I was meant to be a teacher. Because of this, it was important for me to find a program that offered education courses abroad while still giving me the chance to travel often. Luckily, USAC Reggio Emilia was introduced to me by a classmate and the anticipation set in from there.

During my Spring 2019 semester in Europe, I took advantage of the many educational opportunities that were offered. The professors in Reggio Emilia fostered a learning environment that welcomed foreign students in with open arms. Class assignments were manageable (even if some had to be completed on the way home from a long-weekend in Ireland…), and the espresso vending machines were always a nice start to the school days!

Along with capable professors, the USAC directors (Hi Simona and Giulia!!) planned various field trips and gatherings that allowed our group to get to know one another outside of the classroom as well. This resulted in some of the best memories and fast friendships that started forming almost immediately.

A group of students during a travel abroad program in Reggio Emilia, Italy with USAC

Study Abroad Volunteer and Internship Opportunities

This travel abroad program also offered several volunteering opportunities and internships for those that wanted to further their studies on a field experience level. As an Elementary Major with a Kindergarten Endorsement, I was eager to learn about the infamous Reggio Approach in hopes that I could take some of what I would learn back to my own classroom someday. So, I applied to volunteer at the Preschool in town and spent a few hours every week observing and learning alongside the Italian teachers. This experience opened my eyes to Italy’s school system as a whole – and it was amazing to see the Reggio Approach in practice by the educators that know it best.

For those unfamiliar with this teaching method, it values student-centered learning and emphasizes real-life experiences rather than fixed curriculum. The Reggio Approach gives students the chance to take responsibility in their own learning, all while infusing creativity into their daily academics. And while there are pros and cons to all teaching styles, this method seemed to create the most welcoming environment for all those that entered it – no matter if you were fluent in Italian or not. Ha!

Students can learn the Reggio Emilia approach during a travel abroad program with USAC

Choosing Travel Abroad Programs in a Hidden Gem

Above all else, Reggio Emilia is a home away from home. It is a quiet place to come back to after a long weekend away in a big city. Its’ cafes give you a place to converse with new friends, study for class, or plan your next adventure. And the city center has just enough selection so that you can see and get to know the locals on a regular basis. This atmosphere creates a small-town feel that gives newcomers a sense of belonging in such a short amount of time.

Although I have to admit, I was a little hesitant when I first considered this city as a place to study abroad. I had always imagined I would live in a well-known, Americanized city that would make my time abroad a little more convenient. As we all know, though, the best things in life never come easy.

I am so glad I went for the unknown. Living in Reggio Emilia forced me out of my comfort zone and connected me to a foreign place that now has such a big piece of my heart. This pretty city holds stories that would be much different if I would have chosen a brighter dot on the map, and ultimately helped me realize that the hidden gems are more often the ones worth finding.

Reggio Emilia is my home away from home. And it can be yours, too. Live a life outside of your comfort zone and walk the cobblestone streets for yourself – it might just be the best decision ever.

Abigail VanBergen is a Reggio Emilia alumna. A version of this article first appeared on Abigail’s blog, Just Around the Corner.

Participate in a travel abroad program that gets you outside the classroom to learn.