Sorrento, Italy

January - May 2019

For 4 months, Sorrento served as my home base. Studying at Sant'Anna Institute was an amazing opportunity, and I am grateful not only for its ideal location, but also its amazing cuisine, student-friendly culture, and breathtaking Mediterranean views. For anyone wanting to visit southern Italy or the Amalfi Coast, I highly recommend staying in Sorrento. There are many great cities in the vicinity as well, such as Amalfi, Positano, Capri, Pompei, Naples, and Ischia (an island that few tourists actually know about!).


Deciding to Study Abroad - CIS Abroad

In the fall of 2018, I decided to study abroad for the spring semester of my junior year.  It was a little bit of a late decision, but I got all the application paperwork sent in within three days of choosing the Sorrento program at Sant'Anna Institute. The program I specifically chose was through CIS Abroad, a third-party company, that I highly recommend. Throughout the entire process (pre-departure, my time in Sorrento, and post-return), CIS Abroad staff was there to help with any problems I had. I specifically remember a CIS advisor calling me in December to chat about my upcoming program, just to check in on me and see how I was feeling and if I had any questions.  It was awesome, and I consistently felt like I was in good hands!

Why Sorrento?

Because I had recently switched majors (from animal science to communications), one of the most important things to me was to assure that I could stay on track with my academics, even while abroad.  So I needed to find a program in which I could take at least one major-related course.  Of course, most of the bigger schools with more communications classes were in bigger cities.  But that was a turn-off for me.  I've always been a homebody and have been more comfortable in smaller towns. 

Initially, I wanted to study in Germany as I studied German throughout high school and had recently picked it up again the fall of my junior year.  However, I quickly learned that Germany's academic school year is a little skewed compared to the United States'.  Rather than having fall and spring semesters, most German universities have only summer and winter semesters.  This would mean arriving in Germany in April and staying through July or August, which would not be ideal considering I wanted to find a summer internship to gain communications and public relations experience.

So I turned to Italy.  Ever since I was little, I have been drawn to Italian culture and history, especially the Renaissance period with the Medici family and artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.  My fascination with the nation intensified when I visited my boyfriend in Florence (he studied abroad there for the fall semester so I just visited the week of Thanksgiving). Although I absolutely loved Florence, and would return in a heartbeat, I believed studying in a big city like Rome or Florence for a semester would be overwhelming.  After all, there are just so many tourists all the time!

I decided to do some research on some smaller cities, one of them happening to be Sorrento.  After taking a look at Sant'Anna online (ohhh the dorms looked so amazing) and talking to a few prior study abroad students about their experience there, I decided that was the place for me!  Three days later, I sent in my application and crossed my fingers I would be accepted.

The Process

The process of going abroad differs for every student depending on the nation they decide to visit.  For example, some countries (like Italy) have a fairly intense visa process requiring a variety of paperwork including flight confirmations, insurance, fund verification, letters from your home and abroad universities, and of course all the necessary identification documents. My twin sister, who studied abroad the same semester as me, chose to study in Dubrovnik, a fantastic little city in Croatia, and didn't have to get a visa at all!  So make sure if you decide to go abroad to do all the necessary research in order to avoid possible problems later on.

Once I arrived in Italy, I had to go through another process to acquire a Permit of Stay.  This document serves as proof to the Italian government that you have proper living accomodations and money for meals, and usually allows a visiting citizen to stay for around 4 months.  Once again, my sister did not have to go through this process either!

4 Months at Sant'Anna Institute

I first arrived in Sorrento on January 13th.  The sun was setting when the van pulled over to let out the students (and an overwhelming amount of luggage).  We jumped out of the van and rushed over to the stone railing - the clouds were fading into pink and purple wisps, but the outline of the grand Mt. Vesuvius was still visible.  I was struck by the beauty of it all - I was also practically brain dead from what seemed like a week of traveling - but I had made it!!! Over the course of the next four months I watched Sorrento turn from a quiet, rainy, cold town to a bustling, bright, warm oasis. 

Living at Sant'Anna definitely felt surreal the first few weeks.  After all, the view from my bedroom was a 180-degree view of Marina Grande ("big marina," one of the two marinas in Sorrento) and the Mediterranean Sea. SO much better than my previous dorm view!! One of the reasons I chose this program was because I felt comfortable knowing exactly what living conditions to expect upon my arrival to Sorrento; my past dorm experiences weren't that great, so I was looking for something predictable and reliable. The fact that the dorms were situated directly above the classrooms in which I took my courses was especially helpful the first few weeks in which it rained near daily.  

My classes at Sant'Anna included Marketing, Elementary Italian (oof, what a struggle Italian was after five years of taking German!), Philosophy, and Marine Biology.  All the professors were Italian natives, and most taught at local Italian universities in Naples.  Some were better than others, but that is to be expected at all schools.  The differences between American universities and Italian were pretty dramatic, as the workload seemed a lot less while I was abroad (which was good because it allowed me to travel as much as I did!), but also there was the obvious language barrier.  Throughout the semester, both the students and professors had to change their way of thinking and corresponding within the classroom in order to create an effective learning environment.  I think this was some unexpected (but pretty awesome) experiential learning for both parties. 


Jennifer Nelson

Boston, MA, USA

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