My name is Haley Pesce and I am a rising Senior on the Babson field hockey team from Roxbury, Conn. During the spring semester, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy at Syracuse University Florence. Syracuse University in Florence was first established in 1959, however, the main building on campus has been standing since 1892. The university and campus itself have a great history behind it, which was apparent as you walked through the halls- magnificent murals and chandeliers hanging throughout. I had many aspirations going into my study abroad experience, being something that I have looked forward to since high school. I have a huge travel bug that has always made me want to see all areas of the world, become more informed about new cultures, and meet people of different lifestyles. I come from an Italian background, which sparked my interest in Italy, along with of course the food.
When looking through the various programs that Babson had to offer, I realized I wanted my study abroad experience to consist of a homestay. This means that I would be living with a host family from the respective country. The Florence, Italy program required all students to live with a family, which was the main reason I selected it. I believed this would allow me to become fully immersed in the culture, and learn as much as I could about Italy and the citizens' way of life. I had the opportunity to stay with a 69-year-old woman, along with another Syracuse University student. This was the experience of a lifetime, encouraging me to learn the Italian language very quickly, as my host mom did not speak much English. I would say that this experience of living with someone else from another country pushed me out of my comfort zone, as I had to somewhat conform to Italian culture. This meant eating dinner as late as 10 pm, having a lack of privacy, living in an apartment, and having the noise of the city at all hours. Originally, these were things I saw as weird, but I learned to love them as I learned that they were what made the Florentine culture so magnificent. I believe that the truest and most real study abroad experience can only come from doing a homestay.
Within the Syracuse University Program, I took five courses- Sex, Politics, and Religion in Italian Literature, Cross-Cultural Management, Italy & Italians: A Cross-Cultural Study, Mediterranean Food & Culture, and Italian (which was required every day). I really used my study abroad program to take courses that I wouldn't otherwise take at Babson. I took a break from numbers for a semester and took more classes focused on arts and sciences, which are native to Florence. My classes were all extremely interesting and each class pertained specifically to learning Italian culture. Another aspect of the school that I really enjoyed was its proximity to the city center. Florence itself is small in comparison to Rome, but this is why I ultimately chose it. You can get anywhere that you need to go within the city by walking, which was my favorite part. I found myself on many occasions roaming the streets and admiring the cute artisan shops and priceless architecture of the buildings, very unlike what I was used to seeing in the US.
Florence, Italy's central European location allowed for an abundance of travel throughout my semester. I was fortunate enough to travel within Italy to various places such as the Amalfi Coast, Sicily, Genova, and about 15 cities within the Tuscany region. Outside of Italy, I traveled to the Czech Republic, Spain, Greece, the Netherlands, and Germany. I did these travels with other Babson Abroad Students as well as with people I met through the Syracuse program. Being able to experience these very different cuisines, cultures, and architecture-styles opened my eyes greatly. From making the 8-mile hike across the island of Santorini, Greece to taking a canal cruise throughout the rivers of Amsterdam, each journey opened me up to new experiences and allowed me to learn more about myself.
Overall, my experience abroad was life-changing, as I am now hoping to move to Italy following graduation through the Fulbright Scholarship. I encourage everyone that has the opportunity to study abroad, whether it is a two-week elective or a semester-long trip. It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, as I am quite the homebody, but it encouraged me to see my true passions and tap into a more creative side of myself. I could not have been happier to embark on this journey and would do it all over again if I could. I am happy to answer any questions you might have!