Valpo Voyager

Student Stories from Around the World

Category: Italy (page 1 of 2)

When in Rome!

Name: Mikayla Flanagan

Program: Valpo Study Center in Cambridge, England

Location: Rome, Italy

Mikayla in front of the Trevi Fountain

My name is Mikayla Flanagan and I studied in Cambridge, England this past Spring. I am a sociology major with a criminology concentration as well as a political science minor. I will be a senior this fall and am planning on graduating next Spring! I have always wanted to study abroad since I was in high school and when I heard of this opportunity, I took it immediately. This would be my chance to see Europe for the first time and this would be the only time I would be a student in a different country with this type of opportunity. All of the trips I have been on have meant so much to me and it is difficult to just choose one. One of my favorite places I visited was Rome, Italy.

Pasta that Mikayla made in Rome.

I have always wanted to go to Rome, and I was able to go during my final days in Europe. It was such a surreal moment walking around the city of Rome because everywhere you turn there is a piece of history waiting to be seen. There are fountains, churches, ruins, and pieces of buildings that have seen so much history. The streets themselves are a piece of history when thinking about all of the people who have walked down them. I took a pasta-making class because what better place in the world to learn how to make pasta than Italy! 


When visiting Rome, I was able to see the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and the Colosseum. The Vatican Museums showed so many beautiful pieces of art, and seeing with my own eyes Michaelangelo’s Last Judgment and Creation of Adam was something I will remember forever. Since you are not allowed to take photos in the Sistine Chapel, I ingrained those pieces of art into my memory. The Colosseum was unreal since it has such a rich history. Walking around the ruins where emperors and citizens alike watched gladiators fight was something I never thought I would get to experience. Being in a place where history is so rich and has been preserved for so many years was incredible.

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

Studying abroad has been one of the best choices I have made. I have learned so much about myself as well as the world around me. There is so much to see, and it is at our fingertips! It is an experience of a lifetime no matter where you go. The sights you see and the cultures you learn first-hand are something that cannot be matched. Studying abroad is such a unique experience, and I recommend it to whoever is able to do it!

Spring Break Healthcare: Study Abroad Trip in Italy

Name: Jasmin Bonilla

Location: Italy

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.


Spring Break, Study Abroad Group

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.





A picture of me












Making a New Home

Author: Emily Gustin

Location: Cambridge, England

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

After a few weeks, I feel I am finally settled into life in Cambridge. It was not the easiest journey to get to this point, but I am glad for the struggle– it has let me grow in ways that I never would have otherwise.

Culture shock is a strange experience and difficult to describe because it affects everyone in different ways. For me, I was finding it hard to talk to the people in my classes. In British universities, students choose a course of study and take modules (classes) in that subject with mostly the same people throughout their degree (unlike liberal arts schools in the US, where students take classes in different subjects). So, when I showed up to my first class, I was definitely the odd person out– everyone had already been taking classes together since the start of their first year, and they were already a tight-knit group. I felt self-conscious and concerned that I might not make any friends, since I was an outsider. It took a couple weeks, but some of my classmates have opened up and I feel comfortable having conversations with them– I just had to be patient and give them and myself some time to adjust.

Moving away from my family and friends has also been difficult for me, but I have found such comfort in talking to my cohort– we are all in the same situation, and I am so thankful to have them as a support system. Because of them, I know that I am never alone.

When I walk through the streets of the city, I feel like I am a part of it, fully immersed into a new way of life that did not seem possible a month ago. Getting to know the city has been one of my favorite parts of living here, but I also wanted to explore places outside of England. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to Milan, Italy, for my first trip outside of the UK. I went with two others in the Cambridge group, Grace and Katie. Traveling is a wonderful thing, but we learned that you have to be prepared to be patient. It’s a lot of work just to get where you want to go, including many forms of transportation (train, bus, plane, metro, and others). After arriving in Milan, we had to figure out the metro system (in Italian, which none of us could read) to get to our hostel. Thanks to Google Maps, we were able to find the correct route to take.

We had two full days in Milan. The Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral) is a beautiful, massive building in the heart of the city, and it’s hard to miss. It took over six hundred years to build and is the 5th largest church in the world. We were lucky enough to go to an organ vespers service, so we even got to go inside for free. All of the readings were Italian! We spent much of our time in Italy enjoying the art and architecture of Milan. The three of us went to Pinacoteca di Brera (Brera Art Gallery) and Castello Sforzesco (Sforzesco Castle), which had amazing collections of Italian art, as well as art from around the world (including Michelangelo’s last sculpture and Mategna’s Lamentation of Christ, which are both very famous).  We also got to see Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper at Santa Maria delle Grazie, which was an amazing experience; I couldn’t believe that I was seeing such a piece of art history.

Grace, me, and Katie in front of Duomo di Milano

Tagliatelle bolognese—one of the several pasta dishes I enjoyed in Italy

Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, located in Santa Maria delle Grazie

Katie, Grace, and I did not have a shortage of Italian food; we had either pasta or pizza for every single meal while we were there, and I have no complaints. My favorite meal was homemade rigatoni with tomato sauce and burrata cheese on top, complete with custard pie for dessert– it was all so delicious. We also had gelato several times, which did not disappoint.

I had appreciation for these yellow apartments that we saw while walking the streets of Milan

When we started the journey back to England, I think we all felt a little different, but in all the best ways. We had seen some of the most iconic architecture and art pieces in Italian history, eaten some amazing food, and mastered public transportation in another language. Though we were tired, I felt a sense of accomplishment. As the three of us headed for the airport once again, I watched the sun come up over the mountains and I felt a moment of stillness. It was such a beautiful view, and I was so thankful to have experienced it.

Our last glimpse of the cathedral

After taking a taxi, a bus, a plane, and a train, we made it back to Cambridge safe and sound. I think we all agreed that it felt a little bit like coming home.

Semana Santa

Author: Kayla Doyle

Location: Rome, Italy/Granada, Spain

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

This semester I was fortunate enough to be able to celebrate Easter festivities in two countries: Italy and Spain. I went to Rome with a group of friends from my program for the first half of the week before Easter. The second half of the week we were back in Spain and able to participate in Semana Santa. Both experiences were different than I normally celebrate Easter back home in Michigan with my family, but it was very eye-opening and intriguing to witness. 

When I went to Rome, we had to walk through the Vatican City just about every day to get to the center from our Airbnb. We happened to be there during Palm Sunday, so a few of my friends and I decided to go to the Vatican for mass with the Pope. On Sunday, we arrived at the Vatican and had to go through security to get into the main plaza for the ceremony. When we got through, we were given an olive branch to participate in the Mass and a rosary to commemorate the celebration. There were seats in various sections closed off to people who had reserved seats. We did not have a reservation, so we stood right behind a fence that blocked off the reserved seats that still had a decent view. The ceremony was three hours long, but we only stayed for the first half of it. There was a procession at the beginning which included people carrying palms, followed by bishops and the Pope. It was spectacular! Then there were a few readings and the pope gave a homily, however I couldn’t understand anything because it was all in Italian. After the Pope’s homily we left, but remained in awe of what we just witnessed. I have never been to a church service so enormous and surrounded by people from all over the world. I would highly recommend anyone to experience a mass at the Vatican City.

After we came back from Rome, we were able to see the processions in Granada that same night. It is very popular in the south of Spain to celebrate Semana Santa with huge processions the week leading up to Easter. In the processions there are people wearing a uniform that looks exactly like the clothes that the Klu Klux Klan wore, but the two are not associated at all. I’m not going to lie it was a little scary to see at first. There is also a band that plays music for the march. And my favorite part of the processions, are the floats that are carried by men below the structure. The floats are decorated in gold, flowers, candles, and porcelain objects, and the image differs each day of the week. The people in each city and “brotherhood” in charge of the processions planned all year for this week.

The processions are something that people from around the world travel to come see during Semana Santa every year, so the streets are full of people through the night. I enjoyed seeing the streets full of life, as it is a time of anticipation for the processions and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I enjoyed experiencing Easter in a new way this year, but also missed the time together celebrating with my family back home and watching my little cousins hunt for eggs the Easter Bunny laid out for them. But I guess seeing the Pope makes up for all of that!

Last Hurrahs

Author: Emma Hecht

Location: Oslo, Norway; Venice, Italy

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Over the past week, I’ve been to two more countries (trying to cram as many in as I can in my last days here in Europe). First was Oslo, Norway. For this trip, I splurged and stayed in one of the airport hotels. I ate dinner in the hotel restaurant and then went to my room to watch Law & Order. In the morning I got up and took the bus back to the airport where I took a train (probably the nicest train I’ve ever been on) to the city center. I had planned absolutely nothing for the trip, so I decided to walk around and see what I saw.

The first place I found was the Nobel Peace Prize Museum, which I had heard good things about from my program director, so I went in. The first floor consisted of groups of photos from current peace movements around the world. The second floor of the museum contained the history of all of the Nobel Peace Prize winners since the award began. Each little screen had the Prize winner of a particular year with a little synopsis of their work. (Here I felt extremely ignorant because I didn’t know that Barack Obama had won a Nobel Peace Prize.)

My next stop was the Akershus fortress. I didn’t go in, but there was a stellar view of the harbor from outside of it.

I walked through town a bit more and visited the Christmas market (a very big thing around this time of the year in Europe). I stumbled upon this castle as I was wandering around.

My next trip was to Venice, Italy with my friend Claire. I had three priorities: pasta, pizza, gelato. We had pizza twice, pasta twice, and gelato four times. It was all amazing. We mostly just walked around and went in little shops. There has been a lot of flooding in Venice recently. One morning the square in front of St. Michael’s Basilica was one big puddle.

Our view of the Grand Canal:

We also got on a boat and went to one of Venice’s neighboring islands, Burano. It’s a tiny place, made of colorful fisherman’s houses.

My study abroad experience has been amazing. I’m so glad that I was able to come—even after switching my major twice and I can still graduate on time. It’s unique to be able to live and be independent in another country and to take weekend trips to a completely different country. It’s bittersweet to think that I’m heading home in two days. But, the fun isn’t over yet. I have a day layover in Iceland and the airport is fifteen minutes away from the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa. Is it worth the $85/hour? We’ll find out.

Florence/Rome/Venice, Italy; Reutlingen, Germany; Amsterdam, Netherlands

Author: Shannon Ilg

Location: Florence/Rome/Venice, Italy; Reutlingen, Germany; Amsterdam, Netherlands

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

October 28, 2018

During Fall Break, we continued to travel across Europe. After we left Paris, we went to Florence. Upon arrival I see this magnificent building and am reminded how very, very much I love Italy. I mean, I think mountains are beautiful, but I think that Italian cities have been the most interesting to me.

October 29, 2018

It was a little bit rainy the first full day we were in Florence, but it was just so beautiful! We were staying in the city, but took a bit of a hike just outside the city and were able to see these stunning views.

October 30, 2018

Here is the view from our rooftop Airbnb. It felt like we were in an action movie and could just go run and jump across all the rooftops. I couldn’t get enough. Did I mention how much I love Italy?

October 31, 2018

Next stop? It’s where all roads lead. It’s where you do what the other people do, it’s Rome! The first full day we were there we got to… roam… around quite a bit. We saw the Vatican and all of the ruins, and everything was breathtaking. I really appreciated that anywhere you turned, another building you had seen a million pictures of was right there in front of you, and it’s then that you realize how little pictures actually capture. You can’t tell how beautiful or massive or intricate these places are without visiting them. It’s times like that where I really am just thrilled that I chose to study abroad. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

Ooh, I almost forgot! This night, we all decided that we wanted to make dinner and mac and cheese was what we came up with. So, we bought three random cheeses, and tried it out. It was by far the weirdest but most delicious mac and cheese I have had. This is because apparently those cheeses were not meant to melt into noodles. Instead it was a cheese block with noodles, but oh man was that cheese block good.

November 1, 2018

The second day in Rome was much less eventful. It was very rainy pretty much the whole day and within the ten or twenty minutes we were actually outside, we decided just to head back with a fresh pineapple and enjoy a day inside. I had to catch up on some homework and lecture videos that I had fallen behind on the previous several days. That and we watched Monty Python’s Life of Brian (What did the Romans ever do for us??). Despite being indoors, it was a great day. It was nice to just relax and also be productive, finishing some homework.

November 2, 2018

This is one of the coolest doors that I have seen abroad. I mean, mostly because of the artistic lighting and dense shadows, but it really caught my eye and I just had to share!

This was on the way back from Rome when we stopped in Venice. Which was beautiful. Originally, we had an Airbnb here for the night, but Venice had just been badly flooded, so we thought it would be best not to stay so we canceled our booking. Instead of finding another train, we kept our reservations and spent a couple hours in Venice anyway. For the record, there was no more flooding, and we totally could have stayed there. But in all honesty, it was nice to sleep in Reutlingen for free in my own bed for a night. (Not this night though.. this night we spent on an awesome overnight train where the seats stretched out into a bed that we somehow managed to fit 6 people on…)

November 3, 2018

Back in Reutlingen, I caught up on homework yet again and relaxed for the day. This was the fall view from a late afternoon walk.

November 4, 2018

Reutlingen with the fall colors truly is beautiful. I just love being able to look out the window and see mountains. It’s wonderful.

November 5, 2018

This is the last leg of our journey for Reutlingen’s fall break. Amsterdam was quite an interesting city to spend a couple days in. Here you see a street performer who used audience volunteers to tie him up in a straitjacket with chains wrapped all around him, and then proceeded to escape. It was quite the show! He was very funny and in general very engaging to his crowd.

November 6, 2018

Amsterdam has quite the collection of museums to choose from! I didn’t end up going into the Van Gogh museum, but I went into two pretty weird museums. One was a torture museum, where they have the history of Medieval torture devices and at the end, a very meaningful message that questions the reader about what we have in society today that is really just other means of torture.

The second museum was that which you see above. It’s from the only microbe museum in the world. It brought you through the history of, well, the world, on a molecular and biological level. It was very interactive, allowing you to look through various microscopes at different stages of growth for all sorts of microbes. All together a very engaging museum, and the coolest bit was the fact that they have a lab in the back of the museum where they grow all of the different organisms.

November 7, 2018

This was our last goodbye look on Amsterdam. Just one of the many pretty canals throughout the city.

Here I also say goodbye to the Valpo Voyager. As you can see by the date of the last photo, I still had over a month to the end of the semester, and I continued to take pictures every day. But by now, you have seen much of the wonders I explored throughout Europe, as well as the boredom of schoolwork, and the nuance of being in a new place. I hope you have enjoyed reading about my journey and that perhaps it has inspired you to make your own adventures.

Turning a dream into reality!

Author: Ulises E. Hernandez

Location: Italy

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Italy, the land of wine, cheese, pasta, pizza, gelato, seafood, and most important, the birthplace of the supercar. For those that know me, I considered myself a car enthusiast that is always looking for cars everywhere I ago. During my study abroad experience, I have visited Ireland, Germany, France and many places in England that have allowed me to see many of my favorite European cars, but as my study abroad programs come to an end, there was one place that I absolutely needed to visit, and this place was Italy.

On November 8th, my best friend Ben and I departed from Stansted Airport in London and flew to Milan, Italy. From there, we took a bus to Venice where we spent most of our afternoon exploring the peninsula and witnessing the beautiful scenery. Ben and I had an amazing dinner right at the edge of a pier, and as we walked through the peninsula, we also had the opportunity to try the very famous Italian Gelato which is a very creamy and rich flavored type of ice cream.

After spending the night in Venice, we woke up early the next day and we headed to the city of Bologna. From Bologna, we took a train to the city of Modena in order to fulfill one of my all time lifetime dreams to visit the Ferrari Museum and factory located in Maranello, Italy. Once arriving in Modena, we took an official Ferrari bus shuttle from the train station that took us to the birthplace of Ferrari that was about 40 minutes away. Once arriving in the Maranello, we had the opportunity to visit the museum, walk around the factory grounds, and eat lunch at same café that many of the assembly employees of Ferrari eat lunch every day. Even though I had an amazing time at the museum and the factory, I couldn’t leave Maranello fully satisfied within getting my hands behind the wheel of a Ferrari. After signing my life away in a liability contract, I was handed the keys to a Ferrari F430 Speciale Edition. Right away, I open the car door and turned on the ignition to one of the most powerful cars I had ever driven. With overwhelming joy due to the sound and vibration of the engine, I put the car into first gear and started one of the most amazing driving experiences I have ever had. After cruising on the Italian roads and Hwy’s, we returned to the rental company and Ben and I took the Ferrari bus shuttle back to Modena. In Modena, we walked through the life and history museum of the founder and creator Enzo Ferrari. From Modena, we took a train to Pisa where we ate dinner and spent the night.

Early in the Morning, we walked to the leaning tower of Pisa located about a mile away from our Airbnb. For a few hours, we got the chance to take pictures and spend some time walking around the beautiful city before heading back to the Pisa central train station. From the train station, we took a train to Rome, Italy where we visited the Vatican City and the Colossal. We spent all of our afternoon sight-seeing and the experiencing the city of Rome before heading back to the airport early the next morning.

2017 Photo Contest Winners: Grand Prize

Grand Prize

Name: Peaceful Request
Photographer: Ian Olive
Location: Venice, Italy
Program: Germany Study Center
Description: A calm protest and request

2017 Photo Contest Winners: Sense of Place

Category: Sense of Place 

1st Place:

Name: Descending to Ascend
Photographer: Emma Chelsvig
Location: Varanasi, India
Program: World Internships
Description: Locals and Indian tourists flock to the ghats in Varanasi where they bathe themselves in the Ganges’ holy water.

2nd Place:

Name: We Have  Seen the Light
Photographer: Savannah Jorgensen
Location: Florence, Italy
Program: England Study Center
Description: Florentine people celebrating

3rd Place:

Name: Nymphenburg Palace
Photographer: Kostadin Pendev
Location: Munich, Germany
Program: Reutlingen Summer Engineering Program
Description: The Nymphenburg Palace was built from the 17th to the 19th century for the Bavarian royal family. Behind the palace, there is a garden that is 88 square miles.


2017 Photo Contest Winners: People

Category: People 

1st Place:

Name: A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words
Photographer: Savannah Jorgensen
Location: London, England
Program: England Study Center
Description: Local artist showing his chalk talents off at the National Gallery

2nd Place:

Name: Reflective
Photographer: Katherine Carlson
Location: Mirror Lake, New Zealand
Program: Summer in New Zealand
Description: Self portrait of me looking off in the distance at Mirror Lake

3rd Place:

Name: Gondoliers in their Canals
Photographer: Amy Klass
Location: Venice, Italy
Program: Germany Study Center
Description: Venice, Italy is a beautiful city consisting of hundreds of canals ruled by boats, tours, and of course, gondolas! Taking a ride through the canals is the best and most unforgettable way to view the historic city of Venice.

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