Words by Danielle Amaddeo, a George Mason University student who studied abroad in Florence during spring semester 2016.
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I knew from the moment that I signed up for study abroad that I was making a huge commitment. I knew that the journey that I was about to embark on would change me. But at the time I didn’t realize just how much it would affect my life forever. Before you go abroad, there’s nothing that can truly prepare you for the experience and my experience changed absolutely everything.
The freedom to explore my host city was where I fell in love with something that I had always admired—writing. Writing was my hobby, yet nothing truly inspired me like Florence. Once I began to walk around the city and explore all of the hidden beauty surrounding me, the words began to pour out. I would sit by my window that overlooked the top of the church of Santo Spirito, and the stories would flow seamlessly from my fingers. I would observe everything around me and I wanted to document it all. I fell in love with my truest passion all over again and in the most inspiring way possible. There was no greater joy that I felt than when I was writing about all that I was experiencing. Today, I continue to write about my experience and I’m filled with nostalgic joy.
While in Florence, I created my own blog and began to take pictures and write about my experiences. All of which I did willingly and effortlessly. This really brought me to discover the part of myself that I hadn’t expressed before. I had written many stories, but I was always too afraid to publish them by fear of inadequacy. But Florence gave me an inexplicable confidence boost to publish my work. I shared all my articles on Facebook and eventually I landed two online writing jobs while abroad.
Studying abroad pushed me so far out of my comfort zone to the point where I became stronger, and much more confident. I discovered that what I loved doing was good enough and my inspiration never ceased to energize me.
In addition to rediscovering my truest passion, I also learned how to cook for myself on a regular basis. I discovered that I have a true love of good food and I began to experiment daily with new recipes. The food in Florence is already spectacular, and I tried to recreate the best dishes in my apartment. I learned that cooking is an art that I want to perfect because it challenges and interests me—just like writing.
I had classes Monday through Thursday (thank you, CAPA!) which left me with three day weekends. I decided to fill these up with as many travel opportunities as possible. I went to seven different countries in just four months. I saw some of the most exquisite museums and historical landmarks in the world. I documented all of my traveling and developed a love of photography in the process. I discovered that I have a passion for traveling and learning new aspects about cultures that aren’t visible at first glance. The more I traveled, the better global perspective I developed. This perspective made me realize that I will always be traveling and making new discoveries—it’s just who I am.
I found out who I really am in my travels abroad. My deepest passions revealed themselves and told me that I must pursue what makes me the most happy. I learned that the life I’ve been given would be nothing without my desire to learn more about the world. I discovered what I want to do with my future career and I gained the ambition to reach for the best possible future for myself. In the end, I learned that there is no greater pleasure than knowing what you want and being proud of what you do, and I owe it all to my CAPA study abroad experience.