Cultural Experience | Italy

Dialogue with: Erin Fothergill, An Italian Adventure

Erin’s Advice: GO! It’s doesn’t matter where, why, or how you’re paying for it… it will change your life forever.

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Erin Fothergill

By Jessica Smith, College of William and Mary

We recently had the chance to talk with Erin Fothergill, a rising junior at The College of William & Mary about her recent study abroad program in Florence, Italy; she just returned a few weeks ago! Quite the health nut on campus, Erin juggles her Kinesiology major with Bodypump classes (she’s an instructor at the Rec center), membership in a sorority, and daily runs through Colonial Williamsburg. Thankfully, we caught a moment with this girl on the go; read on about her cooking classes (um, delish!) and her international coffee addiction. 

 CT: Where did you study abroad? For how long? Why did you choose this location?

Erin: I was lucky enough to study abroad in Florence, Italy this past summer. Although I was only there for about five and a half weeks, I could have easily stayed a lifetime. For as long as I can remember, I have always had a burning desire to travel to Italy. Something about the Mediterranean culture and their way of life appeals to me like nothing else.

CT: What did you study while abroad? How did your classes differ from those at your school?

Erin: During my time in Italy, I took two classes for a total of six credits. Since I was located in Florence, I really wanted to take courses relevant to the history and culture present there (aka nothing I would be able to find at my home university). One class I took was as a history class on the Italian Renaissance. The second (and my favorite) was an Italian cuisine class – where I got to cook, a favorite hobby of mine, for nearly three hours each day! Both of these classes took about a quarter of the effort a normal class at my school would take. Granted, I only had to get a C for the credits to transfer back to my home university, so I probably wasn’t trying as hard as I could have. It was nice though not worrying about homework or midterms too much so I could embrace the city and all it had to offer.

CT: What unexpected difficulties did you face?

Erin: The biggest difficulties I faced revolved around money. Italians don’t like to make change and if they must, they don’t like the amount to be a lot. For example, if you tried to pay for a € 1.70 pastry with a € 50 bill you would probably be refused by the cashier. Additionally, in Italy, waiters won’t split a check, which made dining in big groups somewhat of a pain.

CT: How did you #livelikealocal?

Erin: I tried my absolute hardest to find a place that I could call “mine.” Italians value tradition and loyalty, and I wanted to establish my own loyalty somewhere. Being the coffee lover I am, I set out in search of the perfect cappuccino in the perfect coffee house. Less than a week into my trip I found what would become my haven – ChiaroScuro. Every morning at 8AM, without fail, I would wander in with my laptop on my way to my 9AM class and would order a cappuccino. I became friends with the barista, as well as the owner. It got to the point where I was no longer asked what I wanted, but rather a cappuccino was made the instant I walked in. They also took 10 cents off my coffee religiously. Even though it was such a small gesture as a result of routine, that daily cappuccino visit is one I have come to miss greatly since being back in the States.

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ChiaroScuro – Photo courtesy

CT: What was the most surprising cultural difference or similarity?

Erin: The Italians take life at a MUCH slower pace. This was both a blessing and a burden. At restaurants, for instance, the check was never brought to you; you always had to ask for it which became somewhat of a nuisance. This being said, it really made me come to appreciate the company I surrounded myself with.

CT: Can you share a favorite moment/story/tidbit? 

Erin: One of my favorite moments definitely had to be when I was approached by a lost American couple who mistook me for an Italian native. I was flattered that they thought that I not only looked Italian but acted Italian as well.

CT: What advice do you have for students considering studying abroad? (perhaps advice for your particular program, location, or just in general!)

Erin: GO! It’s doesn’t matter where, why, or how you’re paying for it… it will change your life forever. Just pack lightly or you’ll end up checking another bag for your return flight like me!

CT: Where do you want to travel next?

Erin: Paris or the French Rivera!

Erin studied abroad with API. Read more of her adventures at her blog, One Peanut. One World

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Jessica Smith

College of William & Mary | 7 stories

Jessica is a rising senior at the College of William & Mary (Williamsburg, VA), studying English and Film Studies. In addition to writing for The College Tourist, she is interning in NYC for Rent The Runway. In 2012, she studied abroad with Semester at Sea, traveling to eight, different countries along the Mediterranean on the MV Explorer. Her favorites include iced coffee, live music, all forms of social media, and Mexican food.

One response to “Dialogue with: Erin Fothergill, An Italian Adventure”

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