August 04, 2022
My name is Esteban Rosales, and I’m a Human Biology major. I studied abroad in Florence, Italy, through the UCEAP Made in Italy Florence Program in summer 2022
I’ve always wanted to study abroad in Europe, especially in Italy. As a first-generation, LatinX, low-income EOP student, it was difficult to grasp the idea of studying abroad in the first place. Studying abroad as a first-generation student, my parents didn’t know how to help me figure out the process, as they’d never done that before. And while it was challenging to maneuver the entire process, reaching out to the Global Learning team at UCSC helped me throughout the process.
As a Guatemalan-Italian student, going to Italy was always a dream because I never had the opportunity to seek out my Italian heritage. I’ve always been closer to my Guatemalan heritage, so figuring out how to intertwine my identities in Europe was rough. One great way I connected with both of my identities was to remember where I came from and to acknowledge the environment that I was in. In Italy, I never missed the chance to enhance my Italian language skills by living with a host family and speaking with locals, and eat culturally-relevant foods such as pasta and gelato, which helped me get closer to my Italian heritage. Every now and then, I would go to a LatinX restaurant, eat some comfort food, and speak Spanish to the servers, which helped me fit into my new surroundings in Florence.
As a low-income minoritized student, it was challenging to think about how I would financially afford my program. My family didn’t have the means to support me, so I needed to figure it out myself. Luckily, I was able to use my financial aid and found plenty of scholarships with help from the global learning team. The scholarships covered almost all of my program fees, and I want to ensure that whoever is reading this knows that money shouldn’t be a barrier to studying abroad and making your dreams come true.
Another challenge in adapting to my new environment was isolation and homesickness. Back home, I’m very close to my family and friends, so leaving for Italy alone and not knowing anyone was hard. While in Italy, I stayed with a host family. The host family was welcoming and nurturing. My host family cooked terrific Italian food. However, connecting with other students in my program was challenging as I didn’t live with them. What helped me deal with this challenge was seeking mental health counseling services. Talking to strangers about your problems and how you feel surprisingly helps push you through any challenges you might feel. My UCEAP program covered mental health counseling services, so I decided to take advantage of these services. I’m so happy that I did and connected with someone to help me deal with my feelings of isolation and homesickness. And after that, I had the courage and confidence to begin making new friends and meet new people in Italy, and I no longer felt isolated. I met wonderful people and made new friends that I still connect with today. I learned that if you’re ever feeling homesick or alone, please know that there are resources to help students from all backgrounds through this process of studying abroad. I’m incredibly grateful that I got the opportunity to study abroad in Italy. And while it was a rollercoaster of ups and downs, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world. Studying abroad is something that is now part of my identity and it ultimately helps me get out of my comfort zone and experience new things. I can’t wait to go back to Italy!