June 18, 2011
Imagine this: a small town country girl who speaks no Italian packing her bags and heading to Florence, Italy, flying by herself, navigating the crowded and small streets of Firenze to Via Montebello in a taxi with a driver who spoke no English, and making it there successfully.
This situation perfectly describes my journey from the small town of Franklin, Virginia to the big city of Florence, Italy. I won’t discredit myself – I have traveled out of the country before, to England, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, and Aruba, but always with large groups of people or with my family.
Things are different on your own.
Nervousness was present for the week before my departure, and if you told me then that on the morning that I left my host family in late June that I would be sobbing in the cab on the way to the train station, I would have told you that you were a huge liar. But it was the truth.
And I’m sitting here, exactly a year later, homesick. Not homesick for my small town of Franklin, homesick for my temporary home of Via Massaccio with my mama (Anna) and my nonna. Homesick for my favorite gelateria where I could get the best strawberry gelato in Italy. Homesick for the fumbling and giggly conversations shared over dinner where my roommate and I struggled to communicate but made the best of it. Homesick for the calm waters and climbing rocks in Cinque Terre.
Homesick for the life I had in Italy.
Studying abroad at William & Mary is a culture. I cannot begin to tell you how many people I know at William & Mary who have studied abroad, ranging from some of W&M’s summer programs to semester-long programs to even some year-long programs. I’ve known people who’ve studied abroad everywhere from Argentina to South Africa to Austria to India to Australia to so many more places. It’s awesome to go to a school where studying abroad is such a focus, it means the school itself is focused on providing an environment with a vast array of cultural knowledge. And how awesome is that?
Studying abroad was a blessing for me, and continues to be a blessing for me. The relationships that I formed with William & Mary students and the W&M professor who was with us, are irreplaceable. When I see my Florence friends around campus, we jump and run to hug each other and catch up. One of my favorite moments over the past year was walking into the School of Education for a professor meeting and walking by Professor Dipaola who was my advisor and professor for my Florence program. I didn’t see him, but he saw me – stopping in the middle of a crowd of people and yelling at me, “KYLEE! HI!” and running to give me a hug. Having such a strong connection with a faculty member is something to cherish!
Totally worth it.
Kylee Ponder ’11 was a participant of the W&M Florence summer program in summer 2010. Kylee is a just-graduated senior who is a linguistics major and sociology minor, heading on to a 5th year to get a Master’s in Elementary Education. On campus, Kylee is involved in Passing Notes a cappella, Bone Marrow Drive, Delta Delta Delta, serves as an Orientation Aide, and is a Senior Interviewer Intern for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. Kylee also blogs for the College of William & Mary.