Olivia Santulli - 2014 Program Participant

International student with Italian host mother

Olivia with her homestay mom

What made you decide to study abroad?

I’ve always been fascinated by Europe and SPI Study Abroad gave me the opportunity to go to Italy on my own. By being immersed in a different culture, I gained many new experiences and met new people. I plan on studying abroad again in college and cannot wait!

Why did you choose to study in Siena, Italy?

I chose to study in Siena because I take Italian in school and I wanted to improve my language skills in an immersion environment. This experience abroad helped me when I began my Italian five course the following September in school.

What were your housing arrangements like?

I lived with a homestay and had my own room, but I shared the bathroom with my roommate. My host mom lived alone and worked during the day, so we saw her in the evenings for dinner. Dinner allowed us to have many conversations in Italian and helped to build my Italian conversation skills. My homestay was about a 10-minute walk to the school and only a few minutes to the Piazza del Campo.

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

A normal day of school consisted of a light breakfast and walking to class around 9:00 a.m. After four hours of class, we were served lunch at the school (sandwiches, fruit, chocolate, and water/juice). After school, I would meet up with friends and visit shops and the Piazza. Then we would go home for dinner with our families and meet up again later that night.

View of Castiglione della Pescaia in Italy

Castiglione della Pescaia

What was the biggest challenge you faced abroad?

My biggest challenge while studying abroad was my lack of confidence, especially when it came to communication. At the beginning of the trip, I was anxious about situations that required speaking to locals. I was terrified of making a mistake or that my accent was terrible, and that fear limited the amount that I improved during my stay in Siena. Eventually, I realized that communicating wasn’t as difficult as I had made it out to be. If I didn’t overthink it and had more confidence, communication would have been easier for me.

What makes Siena such a great place to study abroad?

Siena is a great location to study abroad because it was fairly easy to navigate. After a few days of exploring, I could find my way around without any problems. We were also able to see other parts of Italy, like Rome, Florence, Castiglione della Pescaia, and San Gimignano.

How has studying abroad impacted your life?

I knew that studying abroad was something that I would be taking advantage of during college, and after such a great experience, I’m even more excited to explore new places and experience different cultures. On this trip I was immersed in a culture much different from my own, and because of that I became more independent, learned many life lessons, and improved my Italian.

Would you recommend your SPI Study Abroad program to others?

Absolutely, SPI is a great program! You learn and grow a lot throughout the trip because you’re on your own for the most part, but there was never a time that I didn’t feel safe.

SPI Study Abroad allows for a simultaneously fun and educational experience that was worth every penny.

View of Siena, Italy from the Torre del Mangia

The view from the Torre del Mangia in Siena

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

If I could study abroad again, I would go to France. I went to Paris a few years ago and it was one of my favorite places I’ve visited. I also really want to learn French.