Grace Horak

Major: Apparel, merchandising, and design
Class: Junior
Timeframe: August 29th, 2017 - December 14th, 2017
Type of Experience: Study Abroad
Destination: Italy

Overall Experience

Studying in Florence is an experience I will never be able to relive again, however I have taken with me the knowledge, the lessons, and the memories. To be able to not only study in another country, but live in another country for four months was the biggest eye opener. I learned an astronomical amount of information in my classes that I was able to apply to even my own life. Traveling to new places, meeting new friends, and more importantly discovering more about myself was, to put very simply, a gift.

Learning experience

One of my most valuable experiences while studying abroad was my Luxury Brand Management class taught by Professor Chiara Dussini. To be honest, at first I was so frustrated with both my professor and the class she was teaching. She taught in this abstract way and to me, the content of the material was too straight forward to be teaching it in that way. However, as time went on and my heart and mind opened, the class became more attainable and the ideals started to make sense. As an assignment for the semester, we were to create a summary/presentation on a news article that involved the world of luxury. I chose an abstract article that involved the future of luxury. The article gave me a base, however I felt it was open to interpretation and I ran with it. I presented and the next week my professor held me after class. She told me that she was very impressed with my presentation and that mine had been one of the best of the class ( I was last to present). In my 20 years of life, hearing that was one of the best compliments I could have ever received. First of all, coming from the professor that I was frustrated with at the beginning because she taught differently than I was used to, was huge because it was almost like a was speaking her language (not literally). I let my guard down and morphed my thinking into thinking outside the box.

Memorable experience

One of my most memorable experiences while studying abroad was my morning runs. I woke up early, about three times a week, to run around the river in Florence. In just over an hour or so, I saw so many things; I saw the sunrise, I saw Italians heading to work, I saw residents walking their dogs, I saw tourists, I saw Italian students waiting for class to start, I saw the cobblestone streets and tiny sidewalks under my feet. I saw the city of Florence come alive.

What did you not expect?

On my way to Italy, I expected to have the study abroad experience that I heard others describe, however I was surprised in the fact that I created my own study abroad experience. I say that in some what of a sarcastic tone. Sometimes we (students) get so caught up in the classic study abroad experience (traveling a ton, going out every night, etc) that we forget to create our own. I learned early on to do what pleases me and to try the things that I wanted to try and go or not go to certain places. I didn't love traveling every weekend like most of my classmates did and after a trip that didn't go very well and that didn't make me happy, I learned to simply start doing what made me happy. I learned that the only way I was going to be completely satisfied with my experience was to be my authentic self and to listen to myself. I think sometimes students studying abroad forget that.

What advice would you give?

Do what makes YOU happy. Of course keep your eyes and ears open, but don't forget about your mind and your heart because those memories you make while being so open and aware will be much harder to forget.

How has this experience impacted your life?

During the last weeks of my time in Italy, I spent a lot of time reflecting on what my time had given me and what I had taken from my time. My time had given me lessons in classes, in which I took those lessons and entangled them within my personal and professional lives. To me, the professors were not just instructors, but men and women to whom I looked up to. My time had given me classmates, in which I took those relationships and turned them into friendships. It really opened my eyes to see how different, yet similar people my age are from other states and other countries. My time had offered opportunities to travel to beautiful places, in which I took those beautiful opportunities and created both digital and mental images I still gasp at. My experience impacted both my mind and my heart.

How did you learn about this experience?

I first learned about studying abroad, specifically LDM, during my very first visit to Iowa State University. Ann Thye mentioned the opportunity during my advising appointment and it was one of the reasons I chose Iowa State as well as my program.

International Connections