Benvenuti in Italia


“It’s like you’re living in a history book, but it’s real life.”

That is how UW-Eau Claire senior Danielle Martin described her summer abroad at Istituto Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence, Italy.

But that option had never been available for Eau Claire students seeking to study outside the borders of the United States. That is, until the summer of 2013, when the university made the boot-shaped country in southern Europe part of its study abroad program for the first time.

Study abroad coordinator Cheryl Lochner-Wright said student inquiries made her and the study abroad department put Italy in the curriculum.
“If we see a consistent demand over time, it plays a big role,” Lochner-Wright said.

Lochner-Wright also said the Florence program at LdM had a lot of pros attached to it. She said the school is designed to have a lot of international students, won’t completely empty your wallets and offers over 400 class options, all without having a language requirement.

“Any time we look at a new study abroad program, we start with academic match,” Lochner-Wright said. “We’re also very cost conscious, because there is a big range of costs in studying abroad, and Italy is typically a relatively inexpensive country. As we looked at all of this, Florence seemed to be a really good match for what we wanted.”

Martin, a Spanish major with an international business minor, said being immersed in the Italian culture has been a positive point of conversation with employers.

“It’s not one of those common places you see that people visited,” Martin said. “It just goes to show you’re willing to do whatever.”
Martin said her classes were different in Italy than back in Eau Claire because of how discussion based the classes were. She said not much busy work was given, but being prepared to contribute to large group discussions made her learn a lot.

She had two classes: a preparing food and wines class that she called the best class she’s ever taken, as she learned to make four-course meals incorporating wine, and an intercultural communications class, where she got to learn about cultural differences in Italy and how to better understand them.

Outside of class, Martin spent her time traveling around the country, hitting landmarks like the Roman Coliseum and Vatican City as well as going to vineyards and wine socials.

She said the lifestyle in Italy was much more laid back than the hustle and bustle grind that seems to be the American way.
“Everyone will say ‘Hi’ to you on the street and will be super friendly,” Martin said. “Everybody walks because it’s so beautiful out; they just seemed more relaxed over there.”

In the summer, nine students went to Italy in its inaugural semester, including Martin. Four are there now, and nine for winterim and six for spring are expected to go.

Lochner-Wright said studying abroad anywhere is a great way for students to make themselves marketable to future employers while learning a new culture at the same time.

“It shows they are willing to take risks out of their comfort zone, that they are flexible and adaptable and that they have communication skills amongst different groups of people,” Lochner-Wright said.

But Martin said if you’re looking for a picturesque and historically rich place to fulfill your study abroad requirements, Italy is a great new option.

“Every day, I remember just walking down the streets and just being like, ‘this can’t be real, I’m walking down a cobblestone street with all this history,'” Martin said. “It was a totally different world I think it’s one of the neatest experiences you can have with going into a different culture and just surprising yourself with what you can learn.”
Deadlines  to enroll in the Italy program for the summer and fall semesters are Nov. 17.