blog posts A Semester in Pavila, Italy Apr 28, 2023 12:00 pm by Mia Hackett Images Graduating University of Illinois senior Mia Hackett shares her full experience, from planning to reflection, studying abroad at the University of Pavia, just outside of Milan, Italy. Read the full blog post here: Before I closed my eyes and envisioned strolling through Italian cobblestone streets with gelato in one hand and a smile on my face. Before I even started at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, I knew I wanted to study abroad. Not only have my sister and several of my friends raved about the experience, but I have always had the desire to explore the world and learn about new things. When determining where to spend this transformative semester, the choice for me was easy, as Italian is my second major. With the help of both my academic and study abroad advisors, I chose courses in Italian and other cultural classes that would fulfill major requirements. DeleteEdit embedded media in the Files Tab and re-insert as needed.align image leftalign image centeralign image rightApart from planning a semester with courses that hadn’t been scheduled yet, there were other challenges that I faced while preparing for abroad. One of the main questions I often asked myself was, “What do I pack?!” I knew I would be limited in what I could bring in my suitcase, so I made a comprehensive spreadsheet that broke up packing into different categories, including articles of clothing, shoes, accessories, personal items, and first aid. This spreadsheet made it easier for me to pack efficiently since I could visualize which pieces went together, how useful items would be, and what I would need to purchase after I had arrived. To get started, the Education Abroad Packing List was very helpful.As I sat on the floor of my room, buried in a sea of clothes, shoes, and toiletries, my mom poked her head in the doorway. She scanned the overflowing room and the empty suitcase. During high stress situations, my mom sometimes mixes English and Italian, so when she told me it was time to “put the vestiti in the valigia,” I knew I had to fill my suitcase with the clothes that covered every inch of the floor since my flight was the next day. DuringI landed in Italy! The drive from Milan to Pavia was scenic and full of eager anticipation of what was to come. I arrived in early February but classes didn’t start until the 28th. While it’s common for students to travel during this time, I am glad that I stayed in Pavia to get acclimated to this charming university town. As someone who likes routine, I used this period to explore the campus, cafes, restaurants, and stores. It was surprising and a bit disappointing to learn that most cafes did not have chai lattes or wi-fi, but I came to appreciate the café culture of spending time with friends and engaging in the community. Although I figured out how to navigate the city quickly, establishing relationships took time. In fact, it took much longer than I thought it would. I am a very outgoing and social person, so I had assumed that I would have several new best friends in no time. With classes not starting for almost a month after I arrived and not living in a dorm with other University of Pavia students, it was difficult to meet my peers. Initially, it felt like I was failing at making friends, and I felt lonely at times. Looking back, I am grateful for this time because it made me so much more comfortable doing things by myself from simple tasks to traveling solo. Once classes did start, I made lasting friendships with students from other US universities, Italy, Germany, Russia, the UK, and Turkey. In addition to building my community, the academic system in Pavia was quite different from Illinois. All my classes were in blocks of two hours, there was significantly less homework, and 80-100% of my grades were from final oral exams. It was an adjustment to being in class for what felt like a long time, but I also had more room in my schedule to socialize, travel, and really engage in the community. DeleteEdit embedded media in the Files Tab and re-insert as needed.align image leftalign image centeralign image rightOne piece of advice that I wholeheartedly believe in is to get to know the other students in your classes and your instructors. At first, I was nervous to introduce myself, but I’m so glad I did. I’m happy I was added to the group chats, got invited to coffee after class, and made really great friends. Because I integrated myself into my classes, I felt like I made the University of Pavia my own, similar to how I feel when I am at home at Illinois. Furthermore, I really value the relationship I developed with my Human Rights & International Law professor. I took the time to get to know her and go to her office hours. She ended up writing a letter of recommendation for me to help me achieve my dream of moving to Italy after graduation. All that said, one semester wasn’t enough, and it was hard to come home! ReturnTrying to cram everything back in my suitcase was overwhelming, but luckily I had my trusty spreadsheet to refer to! Once I was back in the US, I almost had a kind of reverse culture shock. It was strange seeing cars everywhere and modern buildings as opposed to the narrow streets and ancient castles. Honestly, it took me some time to adjust to living in the U.S. again. I thought something was wrong with me. Afterall, I had lived in the same suburb for 20 years, so why was I having so much trouble after only four months away? Any change can be difficult, so I had to be kind to myself. It was also strange to be so independent, living on my own, and then transition back to living with my parents. It took some time to settle back into our old routines, but we got there. My parents were proud of how much I had grown from my time abroad. Studying abroad has been one of the best experiences of my college career, and has inspired me to constantly seek new opportunities. I enjoyed it so much that I am returning to Europe after graduation to live and work in Italy!