First-Generation College Student: A Summer in Italy

Post submitted by Caroline Navega Martins, a Florence Broad Curriculum program participant.

Sometimes I still can’t believe that I studied abroad this summer. The experiences and friends that I made feel unreal at times. As a first-generation college student, I never dreamed that I would be able to attend a study abroad program in Italy, much less on a full scholarship. Studying abroad has always been a dream of mine. In 2020, I finally decided to apply and was lucky enough to get a full scholarship to go. I was so excited to attend and couldn’t wait to go to Italy. Around the same time, the coronavirus pandemic was making headlines and no one was sure what was going on. Ultimately, the pandemic took a huge toll on Italy and the program was canceled that year. There were many emotions that I felt during that time. I felt scared because no one knew what this pandemic was. I felt concerned because there were so many people that were impacted and no one could stop it. I felt defeated because it felt like my dream was in reach but still so far away. Finally, International Programs offered us an alternative. We would be able to switch into next year’s program but there was no guarantee that the program would happen. There were still so many uncertainties but I agreed to the alternative.

Fortunately, the program did happen the following year. When I first arrived in Italy, I almost cried. Everything was so beautiful and different, I couldn’t believe that this would be my home for the next six weeks. Even during the very long bus ride to the study center, we wouldn’t stop “aww-ing” at all the things we were seeing. When we got to the study center, we were instantly greeted with such warmth from the locals. They were so excited to see students back in Florence. It felt like Florence was slowly but surely returning to its original state.

The next six weeks were filled with so many amazing memories. I met amazing people from all over the world. I can say I met some of my best friends on this trip. I traveled all over Italy and got to experience so many amazing things. We rode electric scooters around Rome and got to experience the city on another level. We took a boat tour in Amalfi and got to see some amazing caverns. We got to see Italy win the Euro Cup. I practiced my Italian and acted as the translator for my friends. There are so many memories that I would love to share but one of my favorite memories was when I went to Cinque Terre with some of the friends I made in the program. As I’m writing this now, I can’t stop smiling thinking about that trip. I don’t think there was one moment on that trip where we weren’t laughing. We woke up super early and took a train to Cinque Terre. When we got there, we immediately went to the beach. Some in our group had never seen the ocean and were so excited to jump in. We spent hours swimming and relaxing by the water. After the beach, we went to our Airbnb which turned out to be one of the worst places we stayed in but we didn’t care. We stayed up all night laughing and talking. The next day, we went cliff jumping and ate at some of the most amazing restaurants with the most spectacular views. It was one of the happiest moments of my life.

Honestly, if I can say one thing to say to International Programs, it would be thank you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. Thank you for introducing me to some of my lifelong best friends. This trip wouldn’t be what it was without them. Thank you for allowing me to start a new cycle in my family where we can achieve opportunities like this. My parents immigrated here from Brazil in search of new opportunities. They worked hard their whole life to make sure I was able to have experiences that they never dreamed of. Finally, thank you for allowing this first-generation student to achieve her dream. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world.

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