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Jessica Diaz-Gallo | Fall 2017 | Italy

June 5, 2018
Jessica at the Trevi Fountain
Jessica at the Trevi Fountain


Q: What made you decide to study abroad? Why did you choose your program?

A: For a long time I was very undecided about going abroad or not. I a lot of what held me back was financial costs, distance, and language barrier. I personally choose Italy for this very reason. I needed to move beyond my comfort zone here at UC Merced and I had wanted to study Italian. UC Merced however, does not offer any Italian courses. And that's what reeled me into the program I chose. What better place to break that language barrier and learn a foreign language while being abroad!

Q: What was the highlight of your experience?

A: The highlight of my experience was just seeing all the beautiful places I saw on textbooks while being at UC Merced. I never thought that I would actually be standing in front of so many historical places. Let alone think that I would be having classes on site. On site learning is more than just leaving the classroom, it is being fully engaged with your surroundings. 

Q: What was your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?

A: I want to say my greatest challenge has to be the language barrier. I have to admit stepping out of the airplane to a foreign country I was so lost. I didn’t know the language and I was scare. I felt so vulnerable and I knew I didn’t ever want to feel like that again being in a place so beautiful. I made it my goal to learn Italian and carry on a conversation, or at least ask for what I wanted to know. I can definitely say that accomplishing that has made me grow as an individual.

Q: How did the coursework compare to UCM? What coursework did you take abroad?

A: Studying abroad doesn’t mean just traveling around the world. Although you do get that opportunity, but being abroad you have to remember that you are a full time student there too. The coursework was rigorous, but it was manageable just don’t push things to the last day. Keep on track and you should be fine. Something I noticed was that professors love to give a lot of overnight reading as homework assignments so carry your book wherever you travel it is crazy how much you can get done on a layover. Abroad I took 2 Italian Language courses, Sociology of Rome, and a Medieval Rome class.

Q: What did you get out of your SA experience? What impact did studying abroad have on you personally?

A: From my experience abroad I learned that stepping out of my comfort zone was a must if I wanted to achieve personal growth. Do not think too much about what can go wrong, or the negatives otherwise you will end up not doing something that instead of hurting you can benefit you in so many ways. SA impacted me to believe more in myself.

Q: What advice would you give to a student considering SA?

A: I’d say to just go for it. Although you might think there are so many underlying factors that will impede you from going, you have to be that one factor that blocks them all down. Of course, you need to want this for yourself. SA gives you so many opportunities, take as many as you can they won’t hurt you. At the end of the day you’ll be happy you were able to do so much not only being abroad but enhancing your undergraduate years.

Q: How were your housing accommodations abroad?

A: I was placed in a private apartment with three other girls each from a different UC. Two girls shared a room and the other girl as well as myself shared a room. Most of the time it depends on your preference if you want a roommate or a single room. The apartment was in a great location and it was not far from campus as well 

Q: What was the most interesting cultural experience you had abroad?

A: When I was in Italy there were many celebrations, festivals, and because I was abroad from Late August- Mid December there were many Christmas celebrations. Something I really enjoyed doing was attending the markets that they had every weekend in Trastevere. However, during the month of December they have Christmas markets and those are so much fun. They sell a lot of traditional Italian meals, have venders selling anything from vintage vinyl to fresh food.

Q: Describe a typical day for you abroad.

A: A typical weekday abroad consisted of a walk to the center, class started at 9am and typically I would leave the center by 5 pm (latest). The walk back home was not as rushed as it was in the morning so sometimes I would stop by stores (there are so many) or get my “daily gelato” (you can never get enough). The beautiful thing about studying abroad is that