Name: Jasmin Bonilla
When I first got accepted into the spring break study abroad program last November, I was thrilled! Initially, I was nervous that I wouldn’t get my first choice. It didn’t feel real until the week before my departure date. On March 4th, I was filled with anxiety and excitement as I boarded the bus to Chicago O’hare. After an 8-hour flight and a layover in Frankfurt, Germany, I finally arrived in Rome. I felt a great sense of gratitude as I got to see the famous Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. Overall, I gained so much knowledge about Italy’s healthcare system, history, and its culture. Many are unaware of the concept of socialistic medicine, but I learned that Italy’s National Health Service provides universal coverage to all residents and citizens, including migrants. I also visited Binario 95, which is a social welfare center that provides services to migrants or individuals who need assistance. It was surprising to learn that many Italians don’t obtain a college degree unless they are pursuing a career in STEM.
As a group, we explored Rome, Tuscany, Florence, Cinque Terre, and Venice. Some of the historical sites we saw included the Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s Basilica, Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Accademia Gallery. Our program tour leader, Matteo, made the experience more enjoyable as he brought enthusiastic energy everyday.
The first thing that I noticed about Italian culture was the food. A typical Italian meal consists of an appetizer, first course, and second course. Now you bet I was full most of the time! Overall, the food was very delicious, and some of the main dishes were risotto, rigatoni mezza maniche, ravioli, and lasagna. The best desserts were gelato and tiramisu! My favorite study abroad experience was touring the vineyard and winery at La Pineta Farm in Florence. I did my first wine tasting and learned to drink it the right way. After the trip, I felt like a changed person, but in a good way. I made new friendships and was exposed to an entirely different life. I learned many aspects of Italy’s qualitative healthcare system, which I will take with me as I work towards reducing health disparities and improving population health. . Overall, if you are unsure of studying abroad for an entire semester, I highly recommend participating in a spring break study abroad trip! It’s a life changing experience that you’ll never forget.