Wondering what it’s like to study abroad? One student has been documenting her experiences on the trip of a lifetime.
Rhea Rechav is a junior international business major and anthropology minor at Missouri State University. She was awarded a $5,000 scholarship for her education abroad, courtesy of SAI programs.
This semester, Rechav is studying at Florence University of the Arts in Florence, Italy. The self-identified traveler shares her experiences through her blog and on social media.
Q&A with Rechav
What are your classes like? How are they different from classes in the U.S.?
My classes are completely in person. I am taking Cultural Introduction to Italy, Mafia and Antimafia, International Banking and Florentine Art Walks.
The professors all have careers in the field. My mafia professor used to be an attorney, my banking professor owns his own investment company and my art walks professor used to be an architect.
The biggest difference between my classes back in America and my classes here is the amount of field learning.
My art walks course doesn’t even have a classroom! We walk around Florence and look at the buildings while my professor lectures about them.
My mafia professor took us to the police station and to a mafia bomb site to learn how Italian law enforcement handles mafia cases.
Florence is so full of history. Everything I learn about in class is just a few steps away.
Do you have any favorite places you frequent around the city?
There are so many places I frequent. But if I had to pick one, I would say I find myself by the Arno River all the time. I am not used to being so close to a body of water and there are so many places to eat, relax and exercise that it is hard to stay away.
The river also has a beautiful view of the Ponte Vecchio, one of Florence’s most iconic bridges.
Have you been able to travel to different cities/countries?
YES! I have traveled to Amsterdam, Netherlands; Barcelona, Spain; Brighton, England; and Tangier, Morocco. In Italy, I have been to Pisa, Rome, Prato, Perugia, Capri, Pompeii, Sicily, Sorrento, Positano, San Gimignano and Siena.
The transportation is so accessible here. It is hard not to travel to a new place every weekend.
How has COVID affected your study abroad experience?
COVID made the steps leading up to studying abroad difficult, but still manageable. Upon departure I quarantined, took multiple COVID tests and got all three of my vaccinations, which was required to enter Italy.
While in Italy, I was required to wear FFP2 masks everywhere – even outside! I had to show proof of my vaccination before I stepped into any building or any sort of public transportation.
I got used to the COVID requirements, and it became the new normal. Apart from the tests and masks, I am so lucky COVID did not hinder my experience! I am grateful to be able to travel and can look back and reflect on studying abroad in the middle of a pandemic.
Are you living with a host family?
No host family. I am living in an apartment with three other girls who are also studying abroad. We were all assigned to be roommates and given an apartment through our study abroad program.
Did you take language courses beforehand? How have your language skills improved?
I initially took Arabic because I thought I would be studying abroad in the Middle East. I came to Italy not knowing any Italian. I learned basic phrases in my classes and picked up the rest of what I know just by living in Italy and communicating with the locals.
What has been your favorite experience abroad?
My favorite experience abroad has been having my sister visit me in Florence. The homesickness has been hard at times and seeing her was such a breath of fresh air.
We went on the most beautiful hikes around Italy, visited our family in England and made so many memories together.
What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in studying abroad?
- Pick your country early and learn the culture, geography and language (if you can). This will enhance your educational experience so much more!
- Plan a few trips, but do not leave every weekend. Take advantage of the fact that you are in a foreign country and see as much of it as you can. The biggest regret I have heard from my peers is that they wished they stayed in Italy more.
- GET YOUR VISA EARLY! Trust me, this is the most stressful part of preparations.
- If you hesitate, do not pack it. I felt that I packed so many things I did not need to.
- Take your classes seriously. Learning about Italian art and culture in Italy made my experience so much more fulfilling.
- Find a way to document your journey. You can blog, Instagram, take videos and scrapbook. I started a blog and a TikTok. It has been so much fun creating content that I will be able to look back on for the rest of my life.
How do you think this experience has impacted you as a person and a student?
I wrote an entire blog post on this exact question. The main takeaway? It was an experience of a lifetime, and I would absolutely do it again.
Study abroad through MSU
Thinking of studying abroad? The International Business Programs office is here to help.
Education abroad advisors can help you select the right location and classes that will transfer back to Missouri State. A short-term or full-semester study abroad program can also count as your required cultural competence course.