Alleah Hilgendorf

Major: Apparel, Merchandising, and Design (Fashion)
Class: Sophomore
Timeframe: Summer 2023
Type of Experience: Summer
Program: CIMBA
Destination: Italy

Overall Experience

This experience was honestly once in a lifetime. Being able to travel the world with people my age felt like I was on top of the world. It was an incredible experience and really gave me a new sense of freedom. Exploring other cultures and being able to immerse yourself in a foreign life was magical.

Learning experience

That time is only a number. People in Italy don’t see time like we see it in America. They aren’t constantly in a hurry to go from one thing to the next. Being in a culture where everything is relaxed and laid back was a huge change for me. Although, it opened my eyes to how fast-paced we make everything. Italian culture allowed me to slow down and fully take in the life around me. It felt like a breath of fresh air to be able to slow myself down and really feel alive. It taught me that we were truly born to live, not just to exist.

Memorable experience

Going to Barcelona, Spain with six people I only knew for a week was exhilarating. Hands-down the best experience I had in the program and even in my life. We all stayed in an Air Bnb for the weekend while we explored what Barcelona had to offer. We went to a Primavera Festival on Friday where we got to see Baby Keem, Kendrick Lamar, and a handful of EDM artists that performed until 6 am. Being able to try authentic Spanish foods and see different views, such as the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia and local stores, was experiential. I gained some of my best friends after that trip and an experience of a lifetime.

What did you not expect?

How few people actually spoke English surprised me. I feel like this definitely depends on where you go within Europe, but very few people spoke English like I expected. Granted, this expectation was from former study abroad students and Google. Although, this honestly taught me a lot about effective communication, especially between two people who don’t speak the same language. In the workplace and even in life, I will definitely run into instances where I can’t communicate in a way where we understand each other. Being able to use my hands or social queues is huge. Also, with new technological advancements, there’s many apps that allow translated communication from Italian to English, or the other way around. A communication barrier will definitely be something I will run into again in the future, therefore I am glad I was able to figure out ways to solve this issue early on.

What advice would you give?

Honestly, stop overthinking it and just do it! You will never have this much time in your life again. Once you graduate you’ll most likely have a job and responsibilities you can’t just miss out on. Right now though, you have the opportunity and chance to do it! If anything, the main reason I was skeptical was because I was scared of what could happen to me. You can’t live your life only thinking about “what if’s,” this experience really made me realize that.

How has this experience impacted your life?

This experience has made me realize that there’s so much more to life than just work. Being able to study abroad has honestly opened my eyes to how much of the world I haven’t seen, and how much I want to see. In the future, I hope to get a job that gives me the flexibility to take time off to travel and explore different countries. Even finding a job that gives me the option to travel for work would be a goal as well. Eventually, I feel like traveling solo would be fun as well. Being comfortable enough with myself to feel safe to explore and travel independently would be huge, it’s honestly a dream of mine.

How did you learn about this experience?

My sister, Emma, goes to the University of Iowa and found this program. We have always wanted to travel abroad together but being from different universities put limits on where we could go. This option was the easiest and most affordable option for us, all while having someone to share this experience with.

International Connections