Macon State Student Shares Experiences
of Her Study Abroad Trip to Italy
By Ashley M. Walker
I have wanted to go on a study abroad trip since I learned about
such opportunities during my freshman year at the College of Charleston.
I finally got the chance when I transferred to Macon State College.
One of my first MSC professors, Dr. Gwen Sell, told me about the
study abroad trip to Italy. Her excitement about study abroad was
contagious, so I signed up to go as soon as I could.
Ashley Walker at the Island of Capri
As it turned out, my study abroad trip to Montepulciano, Italy,
this past summer was one of best things I’ve ever done in
my life. By sharing some of my experiences, I hope to encourage
other students to take advantage of this spectacular program.
I left Atlanta at 5:30 p.m. on May 22 and slept all the way to
Frankfurt, Germany, then all the way to Rome, Italy, and then for
half of the bus ride to Montepulciano. So I was ready for the day
when I arrived in Montpulciano at 4:30 p.m. on May 23. The town
was beautiful! I met my housemates and instantly connected with
all of them.
My roommate was Lindsay Bliss, who, like me, is a senior at Macon
State College. We have had a couple of classes together at MSC;
we found out that we were both going on the Italy trip after we
had both applied to the study abroad program. We decided to become
roommates soon after. All of the students on this particular study
abroad trip lived in their own apartment or house. I stayed in a
three-story house, one room deep, with a spectacular view of a valley.
Everything is uphill in Montepulciano, as I was told in orientation;
everything I learned in orientation proved to be true. Dr. Howard
Sheally, the director of the program, told everyone that e-mail
would not be readily accessible like it is in America. I did not
believe him, but he was right. The only places to use the Internet
were in Internet cafés and Internet rooms. The people in
these places were tourists as well as locals. In Montepulciano,
however, the students from the University System of Georgia filled
all of the computers in the one Internet room called Pixel. (You
can visit Pixel’s website at www.pixel.it. The site is in
Italian, but my first experience with Italian on the computer was
so neat that I think others would enjoy seeing the website.)
Since I arrived in Italy on a Thursday, I had all weekend to adjust
to being abroad. The adjustment was easier than I expected! Learning
the money was not hard. I used the euro, the common monetary unit
of most of the European Union, all over Italy. Once I tackled the
euro, I began to practice my Italian. All of the people I met in
the community were very nice to me even though I did not speak their
language. I learned some key Italian phrases before I left for the
trip, and that proved to be very helpful. I was able to communicate
merely using the basics I learned on the four language-instruction
CDs I listened to before and during the trip. When I was not speaking
Italian, I was doing lots of walking! I walked everywhere the first
weekend. I discovered that walking is the major way most Italians
get around. There were cars in Montepulciano and all over Italy,
but most people walk whenever possible.
Walker and her study abrroad classmates
at a fountain across from the Pantheon in Rome, Italy.
My classes began the Monday after my arrival. I had art in the
morning, a little free time during lunch, intercultural communications
in the afternoon, then more free time until dinner. We had classes
in a castle-like fortress on Mondays and Wednesdays. This was a
huge building with very tall ceilings, like something out of a fairy
tale, and it was very cold. I traveled with my art class on Tuesdays
and with my communications class on Thursdays, visiting such places
as Rome and Florence. The class schedule was very accommodating
to all of the students’ desires to travel on the weekends.
I was able to visit places that my class field trips did not visit.
Over the five weeks, I toured 12 different cities in Italy: Montepulciano,
Florence, Siena, Pompeii, Naples, Sorrento, Capri, Padua, Pisa,
Venice, Rome and the Vatican City. I was busy immersing myself in
the Italian culture at all times!
One of my favorite cities was Siena, which I visited twice during
my first week abroad. I toured a museum in the old City Hall building,
filled with beautiful paintings. My neck started to hurt from looking
up at the incredible frescos on the ceilings. All of the paintings
and frescos were amazingly lifelike. The museum was also full of
many, well-detailed sculptures. One I especially liked was of a
small girl sleeping on a cushion. She seemed so lifelike I wanted
to wake her up.
Walker at the Leaning Tower of Pisa
After the museum visit, we climbed to the top of a bell tower.
It was 322 feet above the ground. That is exactly 400 stairs up,
but it was well worth the climb. The view at the top of the bell
tower in Siena was spectacular!
I visited the Isle of Capri, a gorgeous island, the third weekend
I was in Italy. I fell in love at first sight! The water was crystal
clear, rocky cliffs ascended from the water. As a tourist on the
island, my main objective was to relax. That was the best part about
the island, just taking it easy. Every other city I visited was
full of hustle and bustle. Capri was quiet and peaceful, and once
I reached the rocky beaches I felt like I had discovered heaven
I spent the last three days of my study abroad trip in Rome, which
is full of ancient and breathtaking architecture, such as the Coliseum,
which I could hardly believe is still standing. I also visited the
Pantheon, the famous Trevy Fountain and the Roman Forum. Then, when
I thought I had seen all of the most incredible architecture there
was to see, I entered Vatican City. Breathtaking!
I entered the Vatican Museum in order to see the Sistine Chapel.
I thought I might rush though the museum to see the Chapel, but
everything in the museum was worth seeing. My favorite part was
the massive modern art section leading to the Chapel. It had two
Salvador Dali paintings; I am a big fan of Dali. I studied his paintings
for a while, then rushed to the Chapel to see Michelangelo’s
work. I could hardly believe I was there! After staring at the ceiling
of the Chapel for 15 minutes, I went to St. Peter’s church.
This was the last church I saw before I left Italy, and it was the
most beautiful church out of all I had seen all over the nation.
I was very impressed with everything in Rome!
So what did I get out of my study abroad experience? I learned
that by experiencing other cultures, I find out more about myself.
I learned that increasing my global awareness makes me a better
student and a better person. I also have a new view of American
culture. I learned to appreciate things I take for granted - cars,
air-conditioning and the vastness of my own country. I know now
that travel will be an important part of my life from now on, and
I owe that to my study abroad experience.
More about MSC's Study Abroad Programs
E-mail Dr. Gwen Sell
or Dr. Jim Decker at email@example.com
Visit the study abroad website at maconstate.edu/studyabroad
Ashley M. Walker is a senior communications major at Macon
State College. She received a Stephen R. Portch Study Abroad Scholarship
through the MSC Foundation.