University of Florence
Gaia Cozzi, an exchange student from the University of Florence in Italy, majored in communications and was interested in sustainable agriculture.
Gaia wrote her thesis on sustainable food and was interested in ways to persuade people to invest in local produce. In this she found a like-minded community in Northampton and Smith College, which impressed her. However, the food she ate here was vastly different than what she would eat in Florence.
She was open to the benefits studying abroad can bring her. She advised students who plan to study abroad, "You need to be tolerant and try to understand. Don't judge based off of your cultural code. You tend to forget that when you are homesick."
Luckily, her previous study abroad experience to Finland during high school gave her useful experience. While at first she struggled to adjust to the very different culture of Finland, Gaia credited her age for her fast adaptability. She was young and willing to make mistakes, so she learned quickly. She encouraged students studying abroad to follow this example. She practiced and became confident in her language skills, which she then used in other areas of her life, such as her candy shop she ran and catered to a mainly American clientele.
It was because of this candy shop that she wasn't too bewildered by American culture; she had much exposure to it already and knew what to expect. She was always interested in English and learned a lot of it herself by travelling to get to experience in the language. This self-motivation eventually took her to Smith College with a scholarship that she completely didn't expect.
As part of her scholarship, Gaia helps the Italian Department tutor its students in verbal Italian. For her she found it difficult to switch back and forth between Italian and English, as right now her brain is wired completely in English. However, she wasn't worried about losing fluency in her tongue, especially as she kept in contact with all her friends through social media. Those internet connections have helped her fight homesickness and keep in touch with those close to her.
By Sarah Liggera '17 and Kaitlin Scholand '17, Global STRIDE Fellows