A Few Weeks In

Cat Blohm
September 12, 2017
Study Abroad in Siena with IES Abroad

So we are a few weeks in here at IES Abroad Siena and nothing has been less than amazing! The city is more beautiful than I could have imagined, the people are so welcoming, and any worries about being unsafe in a foreign place have been diminished. Honestly, Siena is so small that the couple times I got lost I really didn’t have much to worry about. Sorry mom! I thought it was best you didn’t know until now!

Here are just a few things from the first couple weeks I thought best to cover:

My Host Mom
My host mom is amazing! She is an elderly retired woman, who still does some esthetician stuff on the side to make a few extra euros. She lives alone since all her children have flown the nest, and has the cleanest apartment I have ever stepped foot in. It is small, but it is definitely warm, welcoming, and cozy! Pros: I get an authentic, homemade italian meal at least twice a day (but often much more because she thinks I am incredibly too small), my laundry and room are cleaned for me, I don’t have to worry about buying groceries, and I am SUPER close to the IES Abroad center as well as a student dorm up the stairs on the street over! Cons: she speaks ZERO english and I speak ZERO Italian. Our main form of communication is her talking at me in Italian and me typing into Google Translate my response. Last week, Google Translate tried to tell me she was talking about apple juice...she wasn’t. That was a long 20 minutes of me talking about apple juice for absolutely no reason. Despite this challenge, she is pretty awesome. We watch our il Segreto or some show similar to Jeopardy during dinner together. I don’t know what is happening, but we still get some laughs together and I feel like she either thinks I am great or absolutely insane.

School is great! I love my professors. They are all helpful and fun. They are the kind of professors who love both their job and their students. Yesterday our Italian professor took us to Conad to teach us about all the stuff you can buy in a grocery store in Italy. Guess what: it is the same stuff you get in America! However, they seem to push around their handheld-sized carts in the store so we Americans need to watch out because they are easily tripped over and annoying. Imagine middle schoolers’ rolling-backpacks because they’re basically the same thing. What I love most about my classes are that they are small and therefore easily tailored and trimmed into material relevant to us. My internship seminar is 100% about ME and my love for photography, but also teaches me about how to work in the Italian style.

For those of you who have disability accommodations pay attention to this! At three weeks I STILL had not heard about whether my accommodations were approved or not by IES Abroad in Chicago. I had contacted my school and printed out my eligibility letter, but was still not covered if I needed to miss class, get extensions, etc. Here is my advice to you: figure this out BEFORE going overseas! The last thing you want is to be me, get sick the first week of the program, miss the walking tour and other important information, and feel like you’re being left out/behind because you got sick! Also, if I had gotten another migraine any time soon and missed class, I would have lost one of my precious two absences and not get to use them to my advantage later this semester! You don’t want to be in your program three weeks in like me and not know if you are going to be accommodated. Luckily, my program director has since gotten my accomodations approved and everyone has been really understanding and helpful. 

My internship has been my favorite experience so far. My boss is super fun to work with and has taught be so many new things in last couple of weeks. I have already taken pictures at a wedding and an in-studio photoshoot. I have added over 200 photos to my personal portfolio and cannot wait to add more. I think interning abroad was one of the best descions I made about studying abroad. I have met many new people and will continue to do so in the next few months. The connections I make here in Italy are definitely going to be beneficial to me career wise and I look forward to using this experience to help better my future. 

Missing Home
My time difference from here to home is 9 hours, so when I wake up my family is going to bed and when I am going to bed, my family is at work. This makes talking to them very hard. My grandparents actually just Skyped me on their lunch break! I know that for people like me who have anxiety and sometimes even depression, a lack of talking to their family can be really hard. Trust me, the 10 photos of my dog that my boyfriend sends me every day does not make me feel closer to him. A couple days ago he (the dog, not the boyfriend lol!) actually whined at the sound of my voice and my heart broke! My little sister has only Skyped with me a couple weekends ago because our schedules don’t line up. This is hard for me and certainly can be hard for you. My best advice is to try to stay positive. This does not mean lie to yourself and say it isn’t hard when it is. It is hard. Very hard. You are probably going to cry. You will probably want to go home. But what really got me through these last couple weeks and what will get me through the rest of the program is remembering that this is a trip of a lifetime and nothing, no matter how hard it is, will make this trip not worth every bit of homesickness. It sucks, but also it’s so amazing. The things I am doing now I have only ever dreamt of. Your family loves you and is giving you the experience of a lifetime, so don’t waste every minute of it wanting to go home! And remember to thank them too, because if it wasn’t for them you wouldn’t be there!

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Cat Blohm

<p style="margin-bottom:12.0pt"><span style="color:#404040">I have been writing short stories since I was able to write. My first ever "book" was entitled "Nannette the Wonder Cat" a series of short stories based off the adventures I imagined my cat, Nannette, went on while I was at school all day. I think I was in 2nd grade when that started. I had written the book and illustrated it too. It was quite the little imagination I had. Telling stories and taking photos has been a part of my life since forever and I personally have such an interesting story that I have considered writing a blog on multiple occasions. I think that this opportunity through IES Abroad, to begin my blog while having the experience of a lifetime would serve as a great medium for me to express myself while I am in Siena as well as give me the practice so I can maintain a blog for a long time after my journey with IES Abroad ends.</span><span style="text-autospace:none"><span style="font-size:16.0pt"><span style="font-family:&quot;Times&quot;,serif"> </span></span></span></p>

2017 Fall
Home university:
Santa Clara University
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