Christina Miele - 2007 Program Participant

Vineyard in Chianti, Italy

Visiting a vineyard in Chianti with API

Why did you decide to apply for an international program? What made you choose Florence, Italy?

My best friend was planning on studying abroad in Florence, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to join her. I had never been outside of the country, and I was especially intrigued by Italy, as my family is very Italian. Florence seemed like the perfect city; I liked that it was a smaller city than Rome, that it was full of beautiful architecture, and surrounded by those rolling Tuscan hills. It was also a plus to go on this adventure with my best friend!

What set Academic Programs International (API) apart when comparing other study abroad programs?

I liked API for the option to live in the heart of the city, with other students in the program. I ended up rooming with my friend, but we had four other girls in our shared apartment, and other groups of girls in the building. I also really enjoyed the extracurricular activities that API provided: events around the city of Florence or trips to Cinque Terre or Chianti on the weekends. These were all optional of course, but most of the students in my program took advantage. The staff in the U.S. and in Florence were extremely friendly, welcoming, and proved to be great resources.

What was the most memorable part of your study abroad experience in Italy? Have you been back since?

Simply living in a foreign city was amazing, interacting with locals, learning the language first-hand, experiencing the culture day in and day out; it’s something you can’t fully get on a vacation. By the time we left, Italy really felt like a second home. A few years later, I spent two weeks in Rome for a language program, and took the train up to Florence for a day over the weekend. I spent the day walking through the city, revisiting all my favorite spots (a lot of restaurants), and reliving all the memories!

Authentic Sicilian cannolis

Authentic Sicilian cannolis from a weekend trip to Trapani (Sicily)

What makes Florence such an incredible city for international students?

Florence is much smaller than Rome, but it is still a bustling city with so much to see and do. After four months there, I still hadn’t checked everything off my list!

Florence is also in the heart of Tuscany, and there are so many quaint, hillside towns to visit in close proximity. I found it very easy to get to other parts of the country (I went everywhere from Venice to Capri, all the way down to Sicily) and even to other countries.

There were lots of international students in the city too, so it was easy to make friends and find travel partners for any weekend trips.

You served as one of API’s Peer Mentors after returning from your program, what was that experience like?

It was fun! When I finished my study abroad semester, I was sad to leave. But by joining the Peer Mentor program, I felt like I was still connected to the experience. I enjoyed meeting the other Peer Mentors and hearing stories from their programs in Costa Rica, Hungary, France, etc. In turn, it was also fun to tell my stories to prospective study abroad students at my home university. I recently read an article that the positive effects of a “vacation” last longer if you are able to share you stories, and I couldn’t agree more!

What advice would you give to others interested in studying abroad in Florence?

Just go for it! I know a lot of people who had a fear of missing out by leaving their home university for a whole semester, but I think most regretted not taking advantage of a study abroad semester in the end. On the other hand, I don’t know anyone who did study abroad and regretted their decision.

It was an incredible experience to live in an entirely new place, but kind of have a safety net of sharing that experience with a whole group of people just like you.

The Duomo in Florence, Italy

The Duomo in Florence

Would you recommend your API Florence program to others?

100 percent! I really only have only positive things to say. Although I went into the program with a friend, I made new friends that I still keep in touch with today (eight years later!). As I mentioned before, there were plenty of activities and trips that were top notch because the staff were really experts. I never felt without support or without something to do!

You now work for Flipkey, a division of TripAdvisor, how did your experience abroad impact your decision to work in the travel industry?

After my semester abroad, I definitely had caught a travel bug and started to look for every opportunity to keep traveling or learn about new places. When I started looking for internships the next summer, I focused my search on travel companies in Boston. My thought process was that if I couldn’t be traveling all the time, at least I could be working with a travel product every day.

I spent the summer working at EF Education, and returned for a full-time position after I graduated from Quinnipiac. Although I spent a few years in a non-travel industry in between, I came back to travel last year for a position with FlipKey.

How did study abroad impact your life overall? What were some of the key skills you were able to takeaway?

I think the biggest impact that study abroad has had on me is that it has opened the door to keep traveling. Before studying abroad, I think the furthest I had traveled was to Disney World. Since my semester abroad, I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Central America, the Caribbean, back to Europe a few times, and all over the United States. I’ve really made travel a priority in my life.

One of the key skills I was able to take away from the experience was being able to step out of my comfort zone. I think living on a college campus can sometimes be like living in a bubble, but living in a new city and country for a semester forces you to meet new people, take a stab at speaking in another language, and also learn about yourself.