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Umbra Institute - Perugia, Italy
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Laura Kastner

Major: Communication Arts & Sciences; Statistics
Minor: none
Hometown: Niantic, CT

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I browsed study abroad programs on the PSU Education Abroad website and spoke with two study abroad peer mentors who studied in Perugia and Florence. I decided on Perugia because it sounded like the most authentic experience I could get.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

Studying in Perugia allowed for a cultural immersion unlike any other program in Italy. Because we were the only Americans in the city aside from the occasional tourist, we were able to practice speaking Italian with the locals and have a more authentic experience overall. Aside from my time in Perugia, I traveled to Florence, Rome, Milan, Venice, the Amalfi Coast, and Cinque Terre. Outside of Italy, I visited Greece, Switzerland, and Malta.

How did this experience impact you academically?

This experience allowed me to complete my Paterno Fellows Program language requirement and improve my Italian skills in a way that studying at Penn State never would have. Aside from having the opportunity to speak with Italians, the Italian classroom itself was much more verbal and increased my fluency a lot. Additionally, I was able to satisfy my two general education art class requirements by taking Fresco Painting and Photography, and I can't think of a better place to take either of those classes.

My time here has helped me learn about myself in ways I never would have been able to elsewhere.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

This experience made me rethink my previous income-over-passion approach to careers, simply by presenting me with the time and the situations to learn more about myself. It also made me realize how many places there are to love in the world, and put finding a way to work in London on my radar for the future!

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

Absolutely! My time here has helped me learn about myself in ways I never would have been able to elsewhere. It taught me to put things in perspective, to roll with the punches, and to take risks by putting myself in initially uncomfortable situations. Aside from having so much fun, any student who studies in Perugia will come back a very different person!

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

If it were not for the Paterno Fellows Program, I would not have chosen Perugia. I needed to find a program that offered classes that would allow me to satisfy the post-12th-credit-level language requirement, and the Umbra Institute's Intensive Intermediate Italian did just that! That requirement and class alone brought me here, and I'm so thankful that it did! I'm not sure that I would have felt as at home in many other cities.

For more information on global experiences for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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