Makayla Vandeveer - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I figured that now was the time to travel to the countries I had always dreamed about. My grandfather has always wanted to go to England because he has researched our family history and discovered our origins in the country. Unfortunately, I am not entirely sure he will ever make it overseas, especially as he gets older and it becomes harder to move around without assistance. Seeing him be unable to fulfill his dream inspired me to take hold of mine at a much earlier time in my life so as not to miss out later in my life.

On the beach in Sorrento, Italy

A new kind of freedom

Why did you choose to attend the Sant’Anna Institute?

From the very beginning, it was Italy. From there, I started narrowing down the programs. I knew that I definitely wanted a smaller city. Originally, I had looked briefly at Siena, but then, somehow, Sorrento caught my eye. I think it was the location, right on the water across a peninsula from the Amalfi Coast. I am so so happy with my decision.

What was your favorite part about Sorrento?

To pick one part of either Italy or Sorrento that was my favorite is a hard task to complete. If I have to decide, one of my immediate answers for Italy would be the way the people appreciated your attempts at speaking their language. Never did I feel discouraged speaking Italian to someone who spoke it as their native language. I always felt so encouraged to work and practice and speak with them. For the city of Sorrento, I loved how small it was. I would meet people in other settings and then see them on the street. I was able to say hello to community members and other students in my program just walking along the main streets of the city.

The Residenzbrunnen Fountain in Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg, Austria

What made your experience abroad unique? 

My experience abroad was unique in the way I chose to document it. There are several ways I went about doing this. Not only did I do the most well-known method of documentation: photography, but I also started a blog. I absolutely loved blogging about my experiences at home for both my fellow study abroad students and my friends and family at home to enjoy. In addition to those two, I also created a “One Second Everyday” video mashup using the app. I would take a one second video every single day of my journey and now I can look back and see my entire experience in one and half minutes.

How did local staff support you throughout your program? 

The local staff supported me by always keeping us informed about events going on in the community as well as through the school. They helped us with transportation and understanding how to travel consciously! They were always willing to answer any questions whether academic or other matters.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently? 

Hmmm...if I had to choose one thing to do differently, I would have trusted in the friendships that were being created more early on. I experienced a lot of self doubt when it came to my place in these new friendships we were creating, and I let myself get a little swept up in the feelings of being left out. When I decided to let go of them I realized what I had been missing out, but I was just thankful to have realized it before I lost a lot of time.

Coastal ruins in Sorrento, Italy

At our favorite coastal ruins

Describe a typical day in the life of your program. 

In a typical day I would wake up in the morning and drink my tea slowly. Sometimes, my roommate would be doing her yoga as I drank and I either wrote in my journal or finished my homework. Following breakfast I would get ready for the day and head to the school. The walk didn't ever take longer than around 20 minutes (the best time was around 10 minutes if you needed to cut it close). On the way to class I would make sure to look at the view of Naples and Vesuvius from one of the lookouts.

The rest of the day would consist of a mixture of class for me and then the English courses I would observe with my roommate. Then after the end of the academic day, my roommate and I would leave and grab supplies for dinner. We would make dinner and just hang out.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time? 

In my free time, when the weather was nice, we would run to the water since it was so close! Before the weather became nicer, I would work on my blog posts, journal, or work on homework in the library. Mostly, I would spend time with the other members of my program.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it? 

My accommodation was a very nice apartment. It was always cleaned so nicely by our landlady, who was a sweet sweet woman. I would leave her little gifts to show our appreciation. It was definitely not a host family, but we had a little family just as well. The best part about it was a super pink bathroom. The walls were half painted pink and half tiled in white and pink. One of my roommates really loved it too.

What is one thing everyone should know before going abroad?

You can generate as many expectations about what is going to happen as you would like, but do not let them keep you from loving and getting as much from your experience as you possibly can.

Ciao written in sand

Say Hello!

Now that you're home, how has your time abroad impacted your life? 

It has changed me, I know that for sure. I have noticed a new patience in myself that I did not have before. There are little changes I have begun to pick up on, but for now I am still learning what those changes are. I am interested to see what the others will be.