Madison Worrell - 2013 Program Participant

Palio di Siena celebration in Italy

Madison during the Palio di Siena with her friends, Daphne and Zack

What inspired you to study abroad?

I have always had a passion to experience other cultures outside of my own. Italian culture in particular had always interested me because of its fascinating history, beautiful language, and delicious food.

Why did you choose Siena, Italy?

I had been to Italy previously for a family vacation a few summers before. The experience totally changed my outlook on the world and allowed me to see that there was so much more than what I had been exposed to. When I realized that SPI Study Abroad had a program in Siena it was a surreal moment and I just knew that I had to go.

What attracted you to SPI Study abroad?

Plaza in Rome, Italy

A visit to Rome, Italy - Photo Courtesy of Madison Worrell

One of my good friends had posted a picture about her upcoming trip to Spain with SPI on Facebook. I had always wanted to study abroad, but I didn’t really know how to get started or where I should look. I did a little research and was so thrilled with all the reviews and resources they provided so you knew exactly what to expect.

What were your housing arrangements like in Siena? What was the best part?

My homestay family included our host mother and her fiancé, her young son, and her mother and father. I also had the pleasure of having two of the greatest roommates anyone could possibly ask for. None of my homestay family spoke any English, and only one of my roommates spoke fluent Italian, so conversations included many hand gestures!

The best part of my homestay was that fact that they were so warm and welcoming. It also didn’t hurt that they cooked some of the best homemade Italian food I’d ever had in my life. 

What was a normal day like as a high school student in Siena, Italy?

My homestay lived outside of the city walls so every morning around 7:30 a.m. my roommates and I would make or 20 to 30 minute walk to our school. We would have class until around 2 p.m. in the afternoon, then right after class we would have lunch, walk around the city a bit, and on some days we would have our day trips to Florence and San Gimignano. Everyone was pretty close, so we liked to stay together and go check out the museums and churches as a group. Dinner was around 8 p.m. every night, so my roommates and I made sure to be home promptly. After dinner we would do our homework for class the next day.

What cultural experience from your time in Siena stands out in your mind?

Siena holds and annual horse race, which is referred to as the Palio di Siena. It attracts thousands of people to Piazza del Campo where you’re essentially standing for over six hours to watch horses run around a circular track three times. What was so astonishing was the pride and competitiveness it brought out in the rival neighborhoods. It was such a thrilling thing to be a part of.
Palio di Siena crowd at Piazza del Campo in Siena, Italy

The crowd at Palio di Siena in Piazza del Campo - Photo Courtesy of Madison Worrell

Did you experience any major challenges while studying in Siena?

Probably the most obvious one was being forced to speak in a language I had never spoken before. Going to school really helped me when it came to communicating with locals and my homestay family.

How have your experiences in Siena impacted your life?

It’s been two years since I’ve been to Siena, but the memories will last a lifetime. I’m now a freshman in college majoring to be an ESL teacher where I hope to eventually live and teach English abroad. SPI Study Abroad helped me to secure my dreams as being a teacher as well help build up my résumé.

Would you recommend SPI Study Abroad to other students contemplating study abroad? 

Definitely, I think if you ever have the opportunity to study abroad you should take it. It will open and expose you to situations and experiences you can’t get at home, which will help you grow as a person.

If you could study abroad again, where would you go?

I’ve always wanted to travel to Asia. There culture is so different from American and European that I think it would be an interesting thing to be a part of. My father is a chef and he has traveled to places such as Korea, China, and Singapore. The stories of the people and cuisine have always fascinated me.