Richard Van Der Geest - 2015 Program Participant

What made you decide to study abroad?

I never had the opportunity to do so in high school or in tech college and I always wanted to study abroad.

What was your favorite part about Sorrento, Italy? 

Being close to the sea and seeing beautiful sunsets in the evening.

View of Naples, Italy

Me in Napoli

What made studying abroad at Sant’Anna Institute different from just visiting Italy as a tourist?

It gave me more time to learn about the country and experience the culture more. Also, being able to see more places in Italy and having a longer time to spend there.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

They were always there to help us throughout our time there when we had any questions about anything. They would have the answers to many questions and if they did not know they would look into it and let us know when they had the information for us. They were always offering suggestions and advice on anything that we had questions or concerns about.

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

I might have taken on an internship along with the study abroad program, but that would be it. Also, ensuring the classes I took would be helpful for my degree as well.

What was a typical day like for you in Sorrento?

Each day was pretty simple for me. Get up and have breakfast with my host family, then get ready for class and walk from my host family’s house to school. When I’d get to school, I would be greeted by the staff. I’d go to classes and then go to the student lounge and relax a little. Then I’d get ready to walk home and see the sights, the sounds, and other various things happening in Sorrento. At night I’d have supper with my host family and do some studies from there, then go to bed and get some sleep.

What did you enjoy doing on your free time? 

Doing a lot of exploring in Sorrento and walking different streets and alleys, seeing if I could take a photo of something that would be memorable, or bumping into locals and saying “Hi!” or “How are you?” Also, I enjoyed multiple different holidays during my stay in Italy so I saw some awesome fireworks too.

Piazza Dante in Naples, Italy


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

I had a host family with two meals a day. I was the only one in my house with them and they were a retired couple. They were great people to have the experience with. The meals were great and I always had something different for supper at night while there. In most cases, I felt independent as well, and did not have to share a room with someone or something like that.

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

The hardest part for me was getting used to the time difference because my body had little time to get used to it. I enjoy traveling and being away from family and friends as well; I have shared a lot photos with them though.

What surprised you most about Sorrento?

The most surprising thing for me was the view of the sea from where I lived and went to Sant’Anna. It was such an amazing view, and seeing how pretty and glorious it was made being in Sorrento even better. This was my first trip to Italy and something I will remember for life; I will always share my experiences with family and friends. Also, I made some new friends I didn’t realize I would gain during my stay.

Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Sorrento?

My suggestions would all depend on the time of year. The main thing is have comfortable shoes to wear while there, as you will be doing a lot of walking. If you are going to do any hiking while there, make sure to have the right shoes for that as well. Other than that, do not over pack, just having essential clothing is sufficient.

How difficult was it to communicate with locals?

It was not that difficult at all and most of them knew some English to assist you if you needed help. Also, they were friendly if they did not understand you and then they would have another person assist you as well. For me, a very friendly and laid back atmosphere is what I experienced. 

What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad in Italy?

The main thing for me was I should have learned some of the language before I left to go there because having some of the basics of the language would have been a big help for me. Also, I should have considered adding a work visa to my student visa.

The Gulf of Naples from the island of Capri in Italy


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

Where would I go if given another opportunity to go somewhere in the world? I would go anywhere, depending what options were available to me. Some places I would like to see are Eastern Europe, Australia, South America, and Japan. I love to travel and see what is out there, rather than reading or seeing places only in book or on the internet. 

How has your time abroad impacted your life at home?

I have a lot more respect for the countries I have seen. Also, knowing that it can be different anywhere in the world you are, I respect people from any country. I realized that gaining trust and respect can take you a long way.

Do you have any advice for students contemplating attending Sant'Anna Institute?

If you like to travel and be adventurous, this is an opportunity for you.