We’re excited to speak with Lindsay Hexter, our October 2017 Ambassador of the Month. She opens up on studying abroad in Milan, how it differed from her expectations, and how it’s possible to fit in study abroad (twice!) even as a science major.
Lindsay is a senior studying biology, computer science, and Italian at Emory University. She studied on the IES Abroad Milan—Italy Today program in Fall 2016.
IES Abroad: How did you decide on Italy as your study abroad location?
Lindsay Hexter (LH): I love languages, so after studying French for many years, I was inspired to start Italian in college after taking a Dante course in high school. I encourage everyone to dive into both the language and culture while abroad—all of the embarrassing mistakes you make will be worth it. Trust me, I made plenty! One of my favorite moments abroad was when an Italian barista fully explained the concept of American coffee to me, while I could barely keep a straight face!
IES Abroad: What most surprised you about Italy, compared to your expectations?
LH: I had been to Italy before, but I was not sure what to expect from Milan, the business and fashion capital and consequently the most international of the Italian cities. Though I thought it would be 'less Italian' in some way, I was wrong. Milan has its regional Milanese culture, specific foods, countless coffee shops, haphazardly parked Vespas, and of course, lots of Italians! I was also surprised that not everyone was dressed in immaculate, expensive designer clothing, as might be expected of the fashion capital.
IES Abroad: What tips would you give a student to help them make their host country home?
LH: You should find something that you absolutely love in your host country that reminds you of home. One of my favorite places in Milan was the Moleskine Café. I love studying in coffee shops, as the white noise helps me focus; at the Moleskine Café, I could enjoy a wonderful Italian cappuccino while studying in an environment that reminded me of cafés I like at home. It was also one of the only places where I could find American coffee (though I much prefer having Italian coffee in Italy and American coffee in America).
IES Abroad: What would you tell someone who’s on the fence about studying abroad?
LH: Study abroad is a unique, life-changing experience that is quintessential for understanding your personal role on a global scale. I am a double science major, but I still made it possible to study abroad twice. So, there is always time, and if not, then make time! You will never regret meeting incredible people, trying diverse foods, and exploring what it means to be a global citizen.
IES Abroad: What does study abroad mean to you?
LH: Study abroad represents an important shift in mindset over the course of my semester. At first, I was afraid of revealing my American identity, hoping to blend in as much as possible. I realized over time, however, that instead of hiding my identity, I should instead focus on examining it under the light of a new perspective, the light of this new and different culture. I could then determine what was truly mine, what I had adopted from American culture, and what I would like to absorb from my host country. In turn, I could share parts of my identity with those around me to cultivate a true exchange of ideas and beliefs. This raw exchange is the essence of study abroad.
Have any more questions about what it's like to study abroad? Contact an IES Abroad Ambassador. Who is that exactly? They're recent IES Abroad alums who have a lot of study abroad expertise, and are here to help answer your questions.