Kayla Sides is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A psychology major, she is studying abroad in Florence this semester through the custom program at Norco College.
In this week's post, Kayla took the time to sit down for an interview with fellow CAPA student Diana Gomez.
Hey everyone! So, for this week I am going to give you guys a little break from me and introduce you all to my friend, Diana Gomez! She is a CAPA Florence student, also from Norco College, and this is her first time studying abroad! Here is a brief interview I had with her, going over her journey to and during her study abroad experience.
KAYLA SIDES: When and why did you decide to study abroad?
DIANA GOMEZ: I’ve always wanted to study abroad… ever since I was 10, actually! I traveled a lot when I was younger, so I knew I wanted to travel on my own when I could. Then, once this opportunity presented itself, it was perfect! I want to step out of my comfort zone and experience different cultures. I want to meet new people and make new memories.
KS: So, why did you choose Florence?
DG: Italy has always been on my list of the “Top 5 Places I Need to Go.” Originally, I wanted to study abroad in Rome, since, you know, it’s ROME. But then, I learned that my school was offering a program in Florence instead. Once I heard about it and learned more about the opportunity, I became extremely interested and was eventually driven by curiosity. I’ve learned a lot about Rome until that point, and not much about Florence. So, naturally, I wanted to find out more about this place, so I chose it!
KS: Did you experience culture shock? If so, how did you cope with it?
DG: Uhm… yeah. About three days into the program, I was experiencing a lot of mood swings. Sometimes I would be excited to be here and other times I wouldn’t want to do anything but stay in my room. I became overwhelmed pretty easily. I thought it was the climate change at first. You know, where I’m from in California, the weather is pretty hot and constant. Here it’s sunny, then it’s cloudy, then it’s raining… It’s a lot to keep up with and get used to.
It wasn’t until a little later until I realized that the reason I was having these episodes was because of the culture shock. It was because of the cultural differences I was facing, such as the language barrier or the contrasting social norms. Fortunately, we started running in the mornings. After the second run, at the top of Piazzale Michelangelo, it just hit me. As I was looking over the city, I told myself to stop dwelling on the differences between the new and what I’m used to and embrace them.
KS: What do you hope to accomplish here?
DG: Two things. One, I want to know Florence like the back of my hand. I want to be able to know the streets and pretty much the map of the historical center by heart. The second thing is to travel. I wanted to see more of Europe while I was here and so far, I feel like I’m doing pretty well in that department. Since we’ve been here, I’ve traveled to the Amalfi Coast (Positano, Capri, Pompeii), Venice, London, San Gimignano, and Siena. I’m also still planning on going to Rome, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, and Barcelona!
KS: How do you think it’s going to be like when you get back? Do you think you will be a changed person?
DG: I honestly think that it will be really weird to be back to “normal” again. I mean, back to reality. It’s going to be weird being back at home, with everything I am used to – or WAS used to. It is going to be pretty odd to walk on paved concrete streets again… and drive a car! I know that I will be happy to be back home with my friends and family, but I know I’ll be extremely homesick for Florence.
I do think that I have changed since I have been here. I have learned how to adapt in completely different environments with people that are completely different from me. It was very difficult at first, but thanks to that, I have become more empathetic, patient, and open-minded to differences and new experiences.
KS: Last question… if you can say just one thing about studying abroad that most accurately describes your experience so far, what would it be?
DG: Studying abroad has changed me and continues to change me in ways that I never thought it could.
Kayla's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned.