Holiday feeling

Sorrento is rooted in the holiday tradition of Christmas. In every square, there are light-up trees and figures. Each street has hanging and glowing decorations, and storefronts are covered in strands of twinkling lights. Garlands abound throughout the city. The palm trees glow and sway in the wind. Stores and street vendors alike start selling Christmas trinkets and gifts. The gigantic tree in the middle of Piazza Tasso plays a song every (decent) hour at night, with a choreographed light show to accompany it. At night on the weekends, the streets are crowded with locals and tourists alike, with clowns and giant penguins, with reindeer and Santa, with chestnuts being roasted and music playing from all corners of the city.

The general atmosphere is jovial, everyone is smiling and carefree as the holidays approach. Piazza Lauro has street food stands on the weekends, and concerts are happening almost every night. After New Year’s Day, the Teatro Tasso has free performances.


Black Friday shopping

Though Thanksgiving is an American holiday, it seems that the Black Friday deals have seeped over to the other side of the pond. Stores have 50% off for the first 50 people that come, and restaurants even have deals for the shopper on the move from store to store.


Film festival

There also is a major film festival that happens from the 28th of November to the first of December. It is called the “Giornate Professionali di Cinema” and this is the 39th year of the event. It takes place at the Hilton Sorrento Palace and the cinema. Distribution companies, press agencies, cinema merchants, production companies, technical workers and associations are all present. This way it isn’t just a showcase, but also a way for independent artists to interact with established professionals.



Why Sant’Anna?

I have several reasons that I chose Sant’Anna for my study abroad school.  My only credit that I had left to complete for college was my internship, so I figured, why not do that in Italy? I started searching for internships through my school, and Sant’Anna was the number one school recommended to me. I’m not the kind of person to just accept that because it was #1, means I should go there. I researched it and found that Sant’Anna has personalized internships, locational-relevant classes, and is very near the UNESCO World Heritage sites: the Amalfi Coast, the historical center of Naples, and Pompeii. All of these, plus the helpful and friendly nature of the staff I interacted with, made me choose Sant’Anna.

Personalized Internship:

I wanted an internship where I actually accomplish something. I didn’t want to have on my resume an internship that was just me getting coffee and donuts for an office. That doesn’t help me in the real world. My internship at Sant’Anna was customized specifically for me. I am an English major, so I write articles and proofread documents, I help with paperwork and run the social media for the school.


Sant’Anna offered very specific classes that interact with the area that it is situated in. My classes this semester include many courses specifically focused on Italy, Naples, and towns including and surrounding Sorrento. Anthropology of Europe is taught from a European standpoint, which is something that I cannot easily access in the United States. Just having a professor who lives in Europe and has worked for the EU has given me perspectives on how Europe works on cultural, social, and governmental levels that is impossible to get from a textbook.

Mediterranean Culture and History covers 5000 years of history in 15 weeks. It does talk about European history in general, but focuses on the Mediterranean and all of the empires that ruled in and around it. In one class, History of the Mafia, we discuss how the Mafia came into being in Southern Italy and why it is still a problem in the area.

Archeology: Cities of Fire is focused on the eruptions of Vesuvius, specifically the one in 79AD. We discuss and visit Pompeii, Herculaneum, and some smaller villas. The unique part of the class is visiting the sites with the professor and having class at the sites and seeing what we have read about. I took Archeology at my college, but actually being able to visit and explore the sites in real life adds an entirely new dimension to the class.

Homestay Option:

Another reason I chose Sant’Anna is because it offered a homestay option. I decided that if I am going to study abroad, why not live with a local family as well? It has helped me have a better understanding of everyday life in Southern Italy and given me opportunities I could never have had in an apartment. My host mother helps me with my Italian homework, my host father makes his own wine, and I can have a family setting while 4,986 miles away from my home (but who’s counting).


Sant’Anna Institute is located directly overlooking Marina Grande in Sorrento. Sorrento is right by the Amalfi Coast, and is usually used for a great place from which to explore the Amalfi Coast to the south, Pompeii and Naples to the north, or the island of Capri just off the tip of the peninsula to the west. Sorrento isn’t a major city, and I personally am drawn to smaller cities where I can get to know the locals easily and feel safe all the time. It has quaint family shops and beautiful parks and is on the Bay of Naples, with Vesuvius overlooking the town.

Sant’Anna was the right school for me to go to. It helped me immerse myself in Italian culture while also making me realize what my core values truly were. It gave me classes that fascinated me and professors that actually taught me not only about the subjects, but also myself and what I want to do with my life. It gave me a family to come visit the next time I am in Europe. It gave me friends who I know will last a lifetime. So thank you, Sant’Anna, and specifically thank you to the staff at the school.

Italian Differences: Surprises Overseas


The streets here are not like most American cities. They’re full of one ways and alleys, but people drive them as if they are the highways. There’s no real walking area, and scooters are constantly weaving between the cars. It’s terrifying at first, but you get used to it quickly.



In the United States, if a person needs to go to the store that is half a mile down the road, they drive. In Italy, people walk. Unless you’re going to another town, there’s no real reason for you to drive anywhere. I walk at least two miles a day, and it’s normal here.

Public Transportation

In the United States, someone can drive for six hours on the highway and never reach a major city. Most small towns have terrible bus systems (if they even have it) and only major cities have train and subway lines. Not in Europe! Every town has a bus route, most have train lines, and it’s easy to get from city to city for a relatively low price. I have ridden trams, busses, trains, subways, metro lines, and flown since traveling in Europe, and all for quite cheap compared to the United States.

Physical Touch

The United States is quite reserved with physical contact compared to Italy (or at least Southern Italy, those northerners are colder, like their cities). As soon as I met my host family, I got a name, a hug, and at least two kisses on the cheek from each of them (there were five that I met that day). Any local I am introduced to treats me the same way. As someone who loves contact, I was totally fine with it. I am the kind of person who hugs when I meet people instead of handshakes, so I felt perfectly at home with this. Most people that I have met in the United States however, only hug and engage in physical contact with people they’re close with, such as family and close friends.


The food is all local, and it’s hard to find anything that’s not Italian. I traveled to Naples for the nearest Mexican food, and it was not Mexican food (I assure you). My host family can tell me where all of the ingredients were grown or raised, and it’s usually within a mile of my house. I haven’t eaten anything with any preservatives or pesticides in months. The one time I did at McDonald’s (which took an hour to get to) I got sick because my body wasn’t used to processing it.


I’m going to be honest with you: I still don’t understand the garbage system here. Everything is sorted meticulously and each recyclable has a designated trash bag color and day it is collected.

Animals in the street

In Southern Italy, the cats and dogs are abounding. They wander to and fro, at all hours of the day, through historic sites and neighborhoods alike. A few days ago, I was followed by a pack of four cats and was late to my internship due to trying to bring them back to their houses. Most pets are outdoor pets, and wander since most houses do not have yards for them. My host family has three cats, and it’s not uncommon to not see one for a week since they’re off wandering. 1

Naples: On My Own

Naples was the first European city I was in. I flew in a few days before class. I decided to be (more) adventurous and stay in a hostel, to see if I could really survive internationally. This wasn’t just a vacation; this was me testing myself and my limits to see if I am truly a world-traveling adult like I think I am.

img_7945What I’d heard

So many people were nervous for me going to southern Italy. Then I’d tell them I was flying into Naples, and they’d be terrified. My grandmother begged me to choose a better place. Her suggestion was Canada. Suffice to say, I stuck to my decision. I hadn’t been nervous about going until multiple people voiced their concerns. None of them had been there though, so I decided to trust my gut and go.

How I prepared

I was a little nervous for going abroad in general, and all the websites I read had one common rule: don’t look like a tourist. I didn’t even know what that meant, so I just googled Italian fashion and picked the best clothes that were the closest to those photos. Unfortunately for me, I dress like a summer camp counselor year round, which means bright clothes, socks and sandals, and comfort over cuteness. None of those are European fashion.

I also tried to refresh my Italian, since I hadn’t practiced in three months. I should have never stopped practicing. I might have been a bit better off in Naples if I had just remembered a few basic phrases.img_8045

The streets were so hard to figure out for me, though now they are second nature. They are narrow and one way, twisty and usually lined with buildings with no sidewalk. For a girl who grew up with cookie-cutter streets and avenues, at least 2 lanes, and a standard sidewalk, it was stressful and confusing. It’s just a thing that I had to adjust to, along with the language and customs. It was all overwhelming for me. When I get stressed and overwhelmed, I tense up like a spring. One of the hostel workers noticed this and made me do deep breathing exercises and yoga, which halfway through I started crying. Have you ever been in the downward dog and started sobbing? Because I have.

Hostel life

Lucky for me, the hostel I booked is apparently one of the top 25 in all of Europe: the Hostel of the Sun. The staff were helpful and told me places to go that locals went, which is great because my goal of traveling is to get to know the places I go, instead of see the cool things and be done. Don’t get me wrong though, I definitely went to all the castles and saw a bunch of historical sites. I want to know the culture and the customs of the cities I travel to.img_8050

I love Naples; Castel dell’Ovo, the pizza, Cappella Sansevero, the Spanish quarter, Santa Chiara, Gesu Nuovo, the piazzas, and the friendly locals who will help a small town girl from the Midwest United States. Napoli has a special place in my heart.

I am basically the best target for nefarious activities: I was small, alone, a woman, didn’t speak the language well, didn’t really know what I was doing, and knew no one in the entire continent. If nothing happened to me in three days, I doubt anything will happen to any tourist who uses common sense. Maybe it’s my Midwestern personality, but I tend to find the American tourists and act as a friendly guide and translator, complete with tips on how to do Naples right. Sometimes they talk down on Naples, but I am always quick to defend it.

My Top 5 Reasons to Live with an Italian Host Family

The US is more reserved, in general, with relationships, and when a person stays with a host family in the United States, they either are taken by the host family to see the tourist sites in the city or just left alone. The host families I have stayed with in the US have just let me do my own thing, and from my personal experience, they didn’t really seem interested in getting to know me. In Italy, I have found this to be very different. Here are some of the reasons why the Italian host family experience has been rewarding for me:


My Italian family was welcoming with open arms; they immediately did the cheek-kiss greeting, which I do not completely understand to this day. They make homemade meals for me every day, and help me learn Italian, slowly but surely.


This behavior of treating me as one of their own doesn’t just go for my immediate host family either. I’ve gone to a few of the cousins’ houses for meals, and they feed me traditional Italian meals and strike up conversation with me as much as possible. We joke and they tell me how proud they are of me taking seconds on meals (something I have never heard in the US).



Meals with my host family are very different than how they are at my house. Here, everything is put in the middle of the table and then either the matriarch serves everyone their allotted portions or a person just grabs what they want. I have had certain meals take 4 hours, but that’s because everyone is talking while eating. Even though the meals take up more time, it is worth it because we bond and talk about our days and grow closer as a

family. It also doesn’t hurt that everything I eat here is from local small farms or straight from the garden.


My host family often brings me places with them and show me around town, not just the tourist things though. They have brought me to my host sister’s birthday party and dinners with their choir. They also invite me to do activities with the family, such as go to an uncle’s birthday party, to mass (and then a traditional Sunday lunch), or to help them make their wine.HF1.JPG


I like to learn about different ways to practice one’s faith, especially since I grew up in a Christian environment. I have gone to mass with them a few times, which has been fully in Italian. This has been a different experience because I grew up memorizing the Creeds and going to a Lutheran church, but I had never gone to mass and had never done the sign of the cross before. The people at the church are very welcoming and forgiving if I don’t stand right when everyone else does.

My host family has really been there for me, whenever I need their help! From bonding over Stranger Things on Netflix with my host sister, to 4am hugs from my host brother, they really have accepted me for me. I am already dreading saying goodbye to them in a few months.

You Know You’re an American Studying Abroad When….

You Know You’re an American Studying Abroad When….

  • You don’t understand how big Europe is, so you travel too quickly/frequently Four hours in Rome isn’t enough time, a train ride through Germany isn’t experiencing Europe. Keep calm and smell the schnitzel!
  • You hear where someone is from and you have to secretly google it while they are talking.
  • Thinking a 2 Euro coin is a quarter and thinking everything is super cheap. Spoiler: it’s not. You just spent $3 on a piece of bread.
  • Looking like a tourist because of those knee-high white socks and a fanny pack.img_8461
  • Taking scenic photos without you in them You’re going to regret having no photos of you, plus if you google photos of the area, they are usually a thousand times better than you could even dream of taking.
  • You will hear the other Americans (or you yourself will) complain aboimg_8411ut missing local foods (In-n-Out, Perkins, 5 Guys, etc).
  • Tattoos of local things. People will either get them, or that conversion rate will make your wallet say no and put it in design purgatory.
  • You’ve become a pro at the “gazing into the distance by the ocean” stance and taking them for the others in your schoolimg_9090

I can’t judge anyone for this, I’ve got my tattoo design(s) sketched and miss pickles more than I ever thought possible. These are all from experience. I have sat in a hostel venting about how I just want a burger and fries. I have more panoramas of cities than I ever thought possible. Studying abroad though is life-changing; I always thought it was an over-exaggeration about it until I did it. I honestly didn’t know it was possible to be this happy and content with life.img_8467

Pompeii Excursion


Some of the students in Archeology: Cities of Fire went and explored Pompeii this weekend! Above, the students just finished checking the ancient sound system techniques used in the amphitheater.


The gladiator housing was interesting to students because they learned about the origins of the 2014 movie, Pompeii starring Kit Harrington and Emily Browning (and how inaccurate some scenes were).


Students enjoyed time afterwards to explore Pompeii on their own. Above, Lillian Hogle and Chelsea Gammieri stumbled across the amphitheater. Below, students Stephanie Jump and Tiffany Lopez pretend to be gladiators in the arena!


1 Students were surprised by the size of Pompeii (65 acres). They were also surprised by the amount of buildings that were free to the public to enter.

All in all, the trip was educational and eye-opening for all the students at Sant’Anna. They’re excited for the next trip to Herculaneum!