Wednesday, March 8, 2017

SLU PT Study Abroad Opportunity - Bologna, Italy

All the members of the program in Piazza Maggiore during the Christmas season
Ciao! from Bologna
by Kelly Hodes, DPT Class of 2020

I chose to study abroad in Bologna, Italy, a smaller Italian town in central-northern Italy. I chose this site because I knew I wanted to study in Italy, and figured a smaller city where I could get more of an authentic Italian experience would be something new and fun. Bologna was the most authentic and least tourist-cluttered city I visited throughout all of abroad, which was refreshing, but also frustrating at times, as English was not commonly understood. My everyday interactions forced me far out of my comfort zone, and by the end of the semester I learned how to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
One of the beautiful views in Bologna
Bologna is considered the “college town” of Italy, and is actually home of the first university ever, founded in 1088. This university still exists, so there are lots of Italian students and young people everywhere, and it is a more liberal-leaning city.

It is also known for its amazing food, and pasta Bolognese, or meat sauce, started there! There was no shortage of amazing food in Bologna, including pizza, crepes, gelato, meats and cheeses, and all kinds of pasta. I miss the food there every day, and American pizza just continues to disappoint me.  
Some of the amazing food of Bologna
My program was through Spring Hill College, and was made up of only 35 students. This program was social-justice oriented, and we did a great deal of work with refugees and migrant youth coming from Africa, as Italy is usually the first point where they are received into Europe. We went hiking with them, played in soccer tournaments together, had dinners, and more. 
Soccer tournament with the migrant youth in Bologna, where they absolutely destroyed us
I did not necessarily choose this program because of the social justice aspect, but I ended up absolutely loving this part of my abroad experience. I knew next to nothing about the refugee crisis before going abroad, and coming back I have an entirely new and personal understanding of it that has truly changed my worldview. It was so much fun talking with and getting to know the migrants, as we are really all the same underneath the apparent differences.  
Hiking the active volcano Mt. Etna in Sicily with some refugees
Bologna was a great place to study abroad, and of course it had its ups and downs. Since it is a city relatively untouched by tourists, it is a very authentic experience, and I did feel truly immersed in the culture. Bologna was also very central and easy to travel from, which was perfect for me since I wanted to see as much as Europe as possible.
Some of the views you would typically see in Bologna 
However, this can also be very frustrating at times, as many of the people there did not speak English and Italian is a very difficult language to master. The language barrier was a struggle the majority of the time, but by the end of the semester we could usually at least order our coffee, pasta or wine, as well as ask for the check, without any issues, and that’s a win in my book. 
Some of the views you would typically see in Bologna 
I would absolutely recommend Bologna to future students looking to go abroad, but also tell them to know what they’re getting themselves into. Bologna is a charming city that has lots of hidden gems, but was lacking in tourist attractions and the Italian culture can be quite an adjustment. I loved my study abroad experience and would highly recommend studying abroad to anyone considering it. I am so lucky to have had this experience, and hope I can go back someday to visit Bologna again!
Learning to make pizza in Malta
This is one of several posts featuring SLU PT Student study abroad experiences. Because of its unique format, the SLU PT program gives students the ability to study abroad the fall of their junior year. For more information about study abroad experiences at SLU go to:

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