Lauren Vahldick

#BirdofMouth student blogger Lauren Vahldick spent the spring semester of her sophomore year (2013) in Italy on a study abroad trip.

Studying abroad in Florence, Italy, was life-changing.

I had stories to tell, pictures to share, and I saw everything differently, making this my favorite Illinois State experience.


After months of anticipation and preparing, I was going to spend four months studying and living in another country. Any nerves that I had quickly vanished when I saw my fellow study-abroaders at the Chicago airport all ready for takeoff. Saying goodbye to family wasn’t as hard when I had some familiar faces going with me.


We learned that we would be living in an apartment at the heart of the city, with seven other Illinois State girls. For the most part all Illinois State students roomed together, but some had the opportunity to room with others from different countries. Everything was literally in walking distance. Our apartment was on the top floor of the building, which I quickly realized would mean more cardio, since Italy doesn’t believe in elevators. My biggest advice to all future study abroaders: bring walking shoes!


I quickly fell into a routine, and Florence felt like home in no time. I had classes every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, allowing me long weekends to explore the city or travel to new places. Between classes, I would do homework in coffee shops, visit museums, go shopping, or explore my new home. When the weather got nicer, I spent a lot of time in Boboli Gardens, soaking up the sun and the views.


While I took classes that fulfilled my final general education requirements, my favorite class was an elective: Pairing Food and Wine. Our class met every Wednesday night where we learned about specific Italian regions and the history and development of their cuisine. We even prepared and enjoyed a three-course meal. My favorite: desserts.


Studying in a new country meant that we were adjusting to a whole new culture. In Florence, the campus was integrated into the city. For example my Italian class was located between a beautiful café and museum, making for easy class field trips around the city.


Another adjustment we had to make was to detach ourselves from cell phones. Since none of us had international cell phone plans, our communication got creative via Facebook messaging and other texting apps. This meant we became expert Wi-Fi hunters.


Throughout my semester, I got the opportunity to travel to Paris, Greece, Amsterdam, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and see a lot of Italy. I went to Venice for Carnival, spent Easter at the Vatican, and went horseback riding at a Chianti vineyard. We took two school trips, one to the Almafi Coast and the other to a variety of Tuscan towns.

Paris Florence1 Capri.jpg Venice1 Rome1 Vatican

Too soon, my four months abroad came to an end. I didn’t want to leave my Italian home, new friends, or the lifestyle and culture I had become so fond of. But at the same time, I missed my school, my friends, my family, and things like Netflix and air conditioning. I wanted to stay in Italy, but I also was ready to come back to Illinois State.

Learn more about the Study Abroad program at Illinois State.

#BirdofMouth student blogger Lauren Vahldick is a senior public relations major. Read more #BirdofMouth posts.