What was it like attending HUF?
It is surreal the entire time you are there. For example, the villa was always a 30 min trip from the Duomo… the Duomo! It is one of the greatest architectural feats ever, and we were just a tram ride away from it.
What was it like living in Italy?
The Italian life is very calm and peaceful. We are always told that our lives in America are busy and fast-paced, but it never felt like it to me until I went to Italy. It was relaxed and slow.
The food never gets old. The pasta, pizza, meat and everything else is some of the best I’ve ever had in terms of quality of ingredients and taste. The Italian people view food as art. Every dish is created to be aesthetically and tastefully pleasing.
The landscape of Italy itself is gorgeous. The rolling hills, the plains, vineyards and small rustic towns are absolutely beautiful. Even the big cities boast an amazing style of buildings and monuments.
What did you learn? How did you grow?
I learned that the differences between countries and cultures are beautiful. Each country, city, town and household has different cultures than what we are used to. It felt separating at first, but the more I grew accustomed to being comfortable in a culture that isn’t my own, the more I grew to appreciate the differences that were present. It taught me to think outside my own perspective and approach life through the lives and eyes of Italians. It gave me an entirely different outlook than I had before.
How were you challenged?
It was challenging to be thrust into a culture that wasn’t my own. While a lot of people spoke English, not being able to understand Italian at first was intimidating and frustrating. The more I learned to understand and observe Italian words, tendencies and gestures, the easier it became to communicate and understand. It was also challenging being outside of my home country for several months. The different time zone was another big challenge. Communicating with family back home became really hard as the hours that my family and I were both awake were few.
What is one standout memory from HUF?
One of my favorite memories was when we were given two or three days to kind of do whatever we wanted. Most of our group decided to travel to Milan or Cinque Terre for a few days. I stayed back with four other classmates in Florence. One day I went by myself into downtown Florence, and it was eye-opening to be able to navigate the streets on my own from memory. It was liberating to blend into the crowds and not draw attention to myself, which often happens due to our American accent and our tourist tendencies. That was the day I truly felt like I was a part of the Italian culture and understood their lifestyle. I went and got an espresso at a street-side café, sat and observed the people passing by. I wandered from block to block along the Arno River all day long. At the end of the day, I was riding the tram back to the villa and truly felt like an Italian.
What do you wish people knew about HUF?
It can be hard, isolating, intimidating and challenging. These obstacles give way to some of the most effective and transformational growth I’ve ever experienced. This trip will change you, there is no way around that. Your worldview will widen, your perspective will change and your self-identity will flourish. Studying abroad teaches you how to be totally independent and how to thrive on your own more than college alone ever can.
Robbie, Mona, Giacomo, and all of the HUF staff invest their lives into this program and its students. None of it would be possible or even enjoyable without the hard work they put into this. Their work and effort are invaluable, and they are a great joy to get to know. While you take time to learn the Italian culture, take some time to invest in them also!
What would you say to others thinking about attending the HUF program?
Even though you will try to prepare yourself for this mentally, you will never be ready for this trip of a lifetime. It will change you in every way, and after you get back all you will be able to do is sit down and think, “Wait did that really just happen?” This trip is surreal, and you will need to take time to process what you are experiencing. It’s the adventure that you will never forget. It made me into who I am today, and it will do the same to you as well.
How do you see the world differently after studying abroad?
Robbie, the director of the program, often encouraged us to find beauty in our everyday life. When we go to school in a small town in Arkansas, it’s easy to forget to look for beauty in everything, but it’s much more enjoyable if you do. I learned to find and love the differences in cultures across the world. How boring would our lives be if every culture and person were the same? These different views, lifestyles and people all come together to paint a beautiful picture that is our world. I learned to find the beauty in everyday life and in the differences between American life and other cultures.
Landon Lipp attended the summer 2019 Harding in Florence (HUF) program.