Katie Waldeisen

Florence, Italy

The Institute at Palazzo Rucellai

Major in Biology, Minor in Psychology


Nothing of this ancient world has changed. The buildings may be crumbled, the people may be gone, but the atmosphere and culture remain. Standing in the forum, Pompeii extends in all directions, with the modern towns scenically stretched below us, and Mount Vesuvius shadowing the ground before us. With little imagination, one could envision the city alive; the people selling their goods, others luxuriously strolling the streets, the baths hot and bubbling, the roaring from the colosseum, and the wafting smells of fresh baked bread smeared with olive oil. I am living in a dream and am waiting for someone to pinch me, as I regretfully wake up in my dreary bed, in my dreary dorm room at Penn State. But I don't wake up, and I lived so many experiences I never thought I would ever see beyond my dreams.

Studying abroad was never a concrete idea I had nurtured and brought to life. I don't know the source for my inspiration to go abroad, perhaps it was from perpetually staring at my Tuscany poster hung off the whitewashed wall of my dorm room. It may have been the innocuous biology courses thrown at me from all directions that finally pushed me off the edge. No matter how it happened, intuitively I knew it was something I had to do, and applied for the Florence program at The Institute at Palazzo Rucellai the day it was due. It was scheduled for the spring of my senior year, my last collegiate chance for an international experience. My advisor wanted me to travel to England or Germany to continue my science education. I declined…without hesitation. There was just something about Italy calling my name. My parents were also unsure why I picked a country that had no relevance to my repertoire, yet I knew it was the correct decision, and I would not be disappointed.


There really is no one word to describe my experience abroad. It was an accumulation of events that I could not have experienced anywhere else, making the trip life-changing. For once in my life I could sincerely appreciate art, statues, history, wars, and ancient civilization. And don’t forget that food, wine, balsamic vinegar and olive oil is a whole other type of art there as well. Everything I had been mentally craving, I found in one single country. My roommates and I did not know each other the first day, but by the end of the fourth month we were family. Together we traveled to as many places as we could, from Siracusa in Sicily to as far as Paris, France. I have jumped ravines, climbed volcanoes, seen 1,932 years old human bodies, risen to the top of the Eiffel Tower, touched the walls of the Colosseum, visited the burial place of Caesar, traversed Pompeii, tasted pasta buonissima, drank cappacino that melts in your mouth, looked at the wonder of David, and walked by the Duomo every single day of my four months in Italy.

Though I am proud of all I accomplished while I was living in Firenze, I am most proud of learning the Italian culture, of negating all the stereotypes I had heard, and forming my own idea of these fascinating people. I most admire Italians for their ability to live in the present, and to gain pleasure from every minute of the day.


As a peer advisor, I hope to inspire other students to take a step out of their comfort zone, and to discover other cultures of the world. It truly is an experience of a lifetime, full of people, places and memories you will never forget. I can sincerely promise that you won’t come home the same person, and you will be all the better for it.

Presently, I am applying for the Peace Corps (something I would never have done before studying abroad), and I am looking at other international opportunities. Also, I cannot wait to get back to Italy! Please, if you have any questions contact me at ude.usp.pi|6105wak#ude.usp.pi|6105wak, or stop by 412 Boucke!

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