Guest post by: Freshman studying business administration, Ebonney Bowhay. During Winter 2022, Ebonney received a Global Business Center Study Abroad Scholarship to study abroad with the Business Italy Program, led by Foster faculty in Rome.
When hearing someone mention the words study abroad, I immediately picture the most fabulous places, what you’d typically see in movies or tv shows. I think about how magical it would be, all the memories and great times created, all the adventures, and new friendships to be made. When presented the opportunity to study abroad in Italy, I immediately signed up without any thought. The trickiest part wasn’t getting to Italy or the classes, no, the trickiest part was telling my mom I signed up to study abroad without letting her know. When I finally did, she asked me if I knew anything about the country, was it safe, would I be safe. That night was spent looking into what I needed to get, what I needed to do, and how safe Europe was, especially to people of color. My mom had read a couple blogs that people of color wrote, saying how they had a bit of a struggle because of their skin color. That made me a little worried as I myself am African American. I had that thought in the back of my mind while traveling to Italy.
Living in Italy was a totally different story. Being in another country was hard to wrap my head around. It was eye opening to say the least, having a couple days to get used to my surroundings and to explore a little before classes begun was helpful. Classes were a tad bit more manageable than compared to back at The University of Washington, but we still had homework, midterms, and finals as any other student would.
The food, snacks, and drinks were delicious. I ate so much pizza, pasta, seafood, tiramisu, donuts, gelato, shawarma, and Asian food to my heart’s content. The food was incredibly diverse like you’d see in America, a good majority being Italian food restaurants. Subtle differences were in everything. Fanta tasted more like lemon soda than orange soda, Coca-Cola tasted better there, the sprite was less carbonated. The pizza you eat there isn’t super thick in the breading as it is in America. The gelato was better than ice-cream you have here, and I miss it dearly.
Some highlights for me include exploring around whenever I got a chance, especially on weekends because that meant I could explore different cities in Italy. Having the freedom to explore with the friends I made in the program and out of the program was exciting and refreshing. Seeing different landmarks, taking a crazy number of photos, and having all these memories still is hard to process. I was able to visit several places, but a few of my favorites, besides Rome, include Venus, Milan, Positano and Florence. We were able to visit a couple businesses and landmarks as a group. Getting to see how espresso machines were made, the process it takes to make wine, and learning about the history of different ruins felt unreal. It was as if I was dreaming for a while until I came into terms that I was in Italy, and it was real life. After that it started to feel normal, I had a routine of going to class, exploring new places, doing homework, eating, and hanging with friends. It was a wonderful break from reality, and I wish for more people to take a chance on this opportunity. The culture is one thing to hear about, but another to experience for yourself.
Sadly, the program was finally coming to an end, and I didn’t want to go back. I strangely started to feel at home in Italy and being a person of color didn’t really seem to be that big of a deal. I didn’t notice much, or any, racism or hate towards my skin color which I was grateful for. I want to encourage people to study abroad if you are comfortable with it, especially if what’s holding you back is the color of your skin. Don’t let anything stop you from doing something you really want to do. One major lesson I learned from my adventures was how to be independent. I got to explore who I am as a person and what I enjoy doing. Overall, I know I want to study abroad again, or just travel in the future.