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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: Lily in Italy

Lily Collins ’18 is a double major in Communication and Psychology studying in Milan, Italy.

April 23, 2017


My name is Lily Collins. I’m a Junior at Lake Forest College, and I’ve had the incredible opportunity to study abroad in Milano, Italy, at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore.

Studying abroad has been one of the most challenging, rewarding, and transformative experiences of my life. Coming to Milano, I was overwhelmed with concerns. What would happen when I inevitably got lost? How would I manage if I lost my phone, or if my passport was stolen? How would I make friends if I couldn’t speak Italian? Sadly, much of my focus was on what could go wrong, instead of how much good I might find.

My first night in my dorm, I couldn’t sleep. I was jet-lagged and euphoric—and starving. At 5:00 am, I decided to get up and make some eggs in the kitchen I had scouted out the previous evening. As I clumsily tried to learn to cook with the induction stove in the silent room, someone suddenly began speaking Italian behind me.

The young woman’s name was Giulia. She was up early to fortify herself with espresso and study for an exam later that day. Giulia shared a cup of her coffee with me, and we talked about her studies of politics and law. I was embarrassed to understand so little Italian, but her English was very good. Giulia also gently informed me that I was in the Italian students’ kitchen, and that International students had one on the other end of the hall, which made me feel quite foolish. She was very gracious though, and told me no one minded if I preferred theirs.

Giulia made me feel so at home that first morning, and has continued to do so over the course of the semester by teaching me how to make my own espresso, introducing me to other students in our dorm, and showing me around Milano. If I hadn’t lived in the dorm with Italian students, I might’ve missed out on living like a local, which has been an essential aspect of my experience. It’s upsetting to consider what I would’ve missed out on if I hadn’t been able to study abroad.

Being in Italy and getting out of my comfort zone has helped me recognize that despite my focus on the potential for bad, the likelihood of encountering good is much, much higher. Further, it helped me trust that even when things did go wrong here, they would work out eventually. Studying abroad has taught me to not fear new parts of the world, and has inspired me to keep exploring.

Thank you for your generosity in contributing to my longtime dream; it means more than I feel I can properly articulate. Though it’s saddening to dwell on my upcoming departure from Milano, I know that I’ll always have the curiosity that this city has instilled in me, and a sense of wonder in the face of the unknown. I can’t think of better souvenirs.

With gratitude and best wishes,

Lily Collins