Study abroad changed my life.

Guest Post By: Junior studying Business and Biology, Madelyn Yeh. During Winter Quarter 2022, Madelyn studied abroad with Foster Faculty and fellow Foster students on the Business Italy Program in Rome, Italy.

I always thought this saying was cheesy— perhaps too good to be true. Take this from someone who used to be skeptical: study abroad truly did change my life.

I embarked on a 2-month journey to Rome with 27 other students in January 2022. Our program was one of the first groups to travel abroad post-pandemic. Despite high uncertainty, we eventually made it to Italy given we follow strict COVID-19 regulations. It felt like a miracle. In a blink of an eye, rainy mornings running to class in Seattle became slow-paced, sunny days in Rome.

A typical day consisted of attending class, grabbing a tasty 1.5-euro coffee from Bar Farnesé then exploring the historical beauty of Rome. Weekend trips to neighboring towns allowed us to see sights unlike anything I’d ever seen before. From the fast-paced city of Milan to the peaceful island of Burano to the breathtaking coast of Capri, this country has everything to offer– even in the middle of winter!

However, what changed my life wasn’t Italy’s beautiful scenery. Rather, it was living in a culture completely different from my own. All my life, I’ve lived in Seattle, a city notorious for its extreme work-focused culture. However, Italian culture is entirely the opposite.

Something that caught my eye was how much less stressed the local Italians seem. It turns out there’s a secret recipe to having a low stress yet hardworking life: Italians greatly prioritize relaxation. In fact, there is something known as “Siesta,” a break every day from 1 – 3PM set aside for Italians to go home and rest. Likewise, Italians greatly value relationships. It’s not uncommon to see Italians chat for hours at a restaurant on a Wednesday at 11PM. I loved that Italians place a heavy emphasis on relaxation and quality time with loved ones.

I began to adopt this Italian mindset over time. I recognized that mental health is just as important as work. Italy taught me how to breathe, enjoy the little moments in life, and work hard simultaneously. Ironically, by relaxing more, I also became a more dedicated learner– a win-win situation! I plan to take this Italian perspective with me for the rest of my life.

Thank you to UW Study Abroad for new friends, incredible professors, and a life-changing few months. Special shoutout to Theresa, our Program Director, for working out all the kinks of this program and fostering an unforgettable experience.