Brooke is a rising senior Communication and Media major and Entrepreneurship minor from New City, NY. She is currently interning as a Digital Merchandising intern at Macy’s in NYC. This past semester she studied abroad in Florence, Italy through the Wells College Program at the Lorenzo de Medici International Institute.

Last summer I came to the conclusion that studying abroad was something I simply could not skip. This was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made throughout my time at U-M so far. When deciding where I wanted to travel, I considered a few things – what languages I did (or did not) know how to speak, what cultures I was interested in, what food I liked, and where I knew students in the Communication and Media program had earned credits towards their degrees in the past. Ultimately, these factors led me to choose Florence as my premiere destination, and I wouldn’t change that decision for the world.

In terms of the academics, coming from such a prestigious and challenging school like The University of Michigan made it pretty difficult for any other program to live up to the academic standards I previously held. While the workload was definitely much lighter than I was used to, I still learned a lot with the added bonus of having more free time to explore the world. I took two 300-level communication classes while abroad: Public Relations and Global Sports Marketing. My experiences in the Communication and Media prerequisite courses made the material from these courses easier to digest and understand in a meaningful way. I hope when I return to Ann Arbor next semester I will be able to take what I learned in Florence and apply it to future Communication and Media classes. I took four classes (12 credits) total and simultaneously travelled through Europe. For those of you thinking abroad is a waste of time and money, I can assure you it is definitely not. All in all, the courses I took not only satisfied requirements towards my degree, but they also gave me a much more comprehensive idea about how communication, in particular, plays a role in the global landscape.

Luckily for me, my weekend began at 10:15 a.m. every Wednesday morning, which left me plenty of free time to travel throughout Europe. In total, I visited 23 cities in 7 different countries and had the time of my life. I kept a blog about my international travels (which I’m sure my Comm GSIs would be proud to know). Keeping a blog was an awesome way to keep my friends & family in the know about where I was in the world. It was also helpful for me to recap my weekends because in a few years I’m going to want to look back and remember the amazing experiences I had, from St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin to a weekend in Amsterdam or Prague.

One of my favorite parts about Florence was how much it really felt like home. No matter where I traveled in the world, coming back to Florence was always such an amazing feeling. To anyone studying abroad in the future, I would highly recommend Florence. It is truly a city that has everything: views, nightlife, academics, leather, wine, food and more delicious food. Being able to walk everywhere in the city made it feel just like a college campus. I would even sometimes run into people wearing Michigan apparel (you can seriously find a Wolverine anywhere in the world)! Florence not only had the history but it is also a very modern city in many ways. As someone who wants to work in the retail industry when I graduate, it was a perfect way to supplement my degree by immersing myself in a place where fashion and retail is everywhere you go.

When I returned home a few weeks ago I was really able to look back and reflect upon my travels. Friends and family ask me questions like “What was your favorite city?” or “What was your favorite meal in Florence?” and I’ve come to the realization that there is no right answer to these questions. My abroad experience really did do what I wanted it to; it taught me that every city and every country is different and unique in its own way. I didn’t go to Europe to choose a favorite destination to travel to on my honeymoon some day – I went to gain an appreciation for the different cultures that I have never been exposed to, and my experience abroad did just that.