How My Time Abroad Shaped My Perspective

Jan 24, 2020 9:30:00 AM / by Sarah Graham

One month after returning from her fall semester in Florence, Sarah shares a final reflection on the lessons she's learned and the places she had a chance to explore. Check out her blog for her opinion of the overall study abroad experience and advice for prospective and future students.

Studying abroad was an opportunity to learn about people and other cultures, as well as meeting new people

I think traveling to different areas allows you to learn more about other people, and a little bit more about yourself. Studying abroad has given me a wider global perspective. I encourage future students to immerse themselves in their city’s culture, and to interact with as many locals as possible. Learning your city’s culture will certainly teach you a thing or two, and maybe you’ll come to view customs differently. I remember on our first day of orientation, as students we were urged to view our cultural differences as learning experiences rather than obstacles. Studying abroad is also a great opportunity to make new friends, and meet new people from all over both the US and the world.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Fall2019_Florence_Sarah Graham_JohnLennonWallPicMe and some friends in front of the John Lennon Wall in Prague.

Discovering new landscapes

Europe is a gorgeous place. I am so thankful for all of the beauty that I got to witness while abroad. I loved discovering new parts of the world. While Florence is an urban city, the landscapes of Tuscany provided natural beauty and comfort. Some of my favorite traveling I did was the traveling within Italy.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Fall2019_Florence_Sarah Graham_CapriThe island of Capri

CAPAStudyAbroad_Fall2019_Florence_Sarah Graham_San GimignanoSan Gimignano, Italy

CAPAStudyAbroad_Fall2019_Florence_Sarah Graham_CorfuCorfu, Greece

CAPAStudyAbroad_Fall2019_Florence_Sarah Graham_MeranoMerano, Italy

CAPAStudyAbroad_Fall2019_Florence_Sarah Graham_VeniceJPGVenice, Italy

How my time abroad has taught me to acknowledge my privilege

I think this is an important one. On my second day in Florence, our program director reminded us of how lucky each of us were. There are many students who can’t afford the opportunity to study abroad. Personally, it was important for me to remember how privileged I was to be studying in Europe. I feel fortunate for what I’ve learned, and lucky for what I’ve gotten to experience. Every moment counted.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Fall2019_Florence_Sarah Graham_MeinFlorenceMe in Florence on my second day.

Learning European history in Europe

One of my courses I took while in Florence was the political and economic history of Europe. I love history, and before going abroad I was incredibly excited to visit different historical sites and museums. It was very interesting to take this course and study modern history through a European perspective, rather than an American one. As a lover of learning, I think this enhanced my time in Europe, especially while experiencing historical landscapes.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Fall2019_Florence_Sarah Graham_PompeiiThe historical ruins of Pompeii.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Fall2019_Florence_Sarah Graham_ParthenonMe in front of the Ancient Greek Parthenon in Athens!

CAPAStudyAbroad_Fall2019_Florence_Sarah Graham_ColosseumThe Colosseum in Rome.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Fall2019_Florence_Sarah Graham_DavidThe famous David statue.


Studying abroad, it’s a very unique experience. It is very possible that this will be my only time living in Europe for a period of time. My advice to prospective students would be to make the most of your experience. Get out there and explore. You get to shape your own experiences. It’s a beautiful blank slate. Get to know your city, interact with locals every chance you get, try the authentic cuisine, and always keep an open mind.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Fall2019_Florence_Sarah Graham_MeinFiesoleMe in Fiesole.

In this last blog, I’d also like to shout out a thank you to the CAPA Florence staff (especially Valentina and Lorenzo), my teachers, and Jessie. 

It’s hard to believe that I’m finally closing this chapter. I’d like to end with a quote I wrote down during Thanksgiving time:

“I’m thankful for the unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience of living in Florence this semester. To everyday witness the beauty of the Duomo and architecture of gorgeous churches is really a gift. I'm thankful to be immersed in this culture, meeting new people and eating delicious food. I know how privileged I am to be here, so I am grateful to be in Florence, a city I've come to love."

CAPAStudyAbroad_Fall2019_Florence_Sarah Graham_DuomoPicI’ll miss you Florence!

CAPAStudyAbroad_Fall2019_Florence_Sarah Graham_SeeYouSoonFirenzeCiao for now Firenze!


Thanks, Sarah!

Sarah Graham


Sarah Graham is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2019, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. An English major at University of Massachusetts Amherst, she is studying abroad in Florence this semester.

Sarah's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.

Learn More about the CAPA Florence Program

Topics: Florence, Italy, Why Study Abroad