Spencer T. is a Senior Marketing major from Spokane, WA. In Fall 2017 he studied abroad in Florence, Italy, as a part of the Gonzaga in Florence program. Read below about his experience making friends in a new country.
LMU partners with Gonzaga University to offer our students the opportunity to study at their Florence campus. Prior to our departure, Gonzaga sent out a large excel sheet of all the students attending the Gonzaga in Florence (GIF) program. Looking at the list, I knew a handful of LMU students but was intimidated by the remaining 150 unknown Gonzaga students.
Reality began to set in when I got off my flight in Munich and began walking to the GIF departure spot. In an instant, I found myself flooded with nerves realizing I would be spending the next four months in a continent I had never been to, with people I didn’t know, all in a language I didn’t speak. However, I knew two things: everyone was probably just as excited/nervous as I was, and Gonzaga students are truly the salt of the earth. I re-channeled my nervousness to excitement and grew eager to meet new friends. Studying abroad is a great way to better get to know your LMU friends, but it’s also an incredible opportunity to make lasting friendships with 150 other students you would otherwise never meet.
Gonzaga in Florence is a unique program because of its opening tour. This first week in Europe is a small, perfect window to meet as many people as you can while you’re still all together. Although uncomfortable at first, I decided to pair up with a friend from LMU and together we introduced ourselves to everyone we came across. We would simply walk up to a group of Gonzaga students and say, “Hey guys, we just wanted to introduce ourselves! This is _____ and I’m _____ and we’re from LMU.” Immediately the Gonzaga community welcomed us with open arms and we quickly met a huge portion of the other students. Two days into the opening tour we were hiking in Austria and my friend and I met a few other students and started talking. What started as one good laugh would result in newly found best friends spending our entire semester together.
From swimming in Cinque Terre, attending the world gelato festival, meeting some pretty sweet dads at Oktoberfest, rafting on the Arno river, seeing the Tomb of St. Francis, e-biking to local wineries, being 5 feet away from the Pope in Rome, taking long walks in the Boboli gardens, dominating Calcetto soccer, and the countless, countless late nights spent eating gelato and playing cards, my incredible abroad experience is entirely attributed to the people I spent it with. By pushing myself to meet new students early on, the benefits greatly paid off. To this day, I still keep in close contact with many Gonzaga students and always look forward to going back home to Spokane, where we can pick up exactly where we left off in Florence.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to push yourself early on and meet as many students as you can during the first few weeks abroad. By doing so, I shared four unforgettable months in Florence and met some of the closest friends I’ve had in my life.