Kiya Toland

Major: Nutritional Science
Class: Junior
Timeframe: Summer 2022
Program: Trieste and the Meaning of Place - an Immersion in Northern Italian Culture
Destination: Italy

Overall Experience

Studying Italian in Trieste was a timeless, novel, and wildly cultural experience for me. I ate delicious dishes I could only dream of recreating, and I met beautiful people that taught me about the intriguing nature of the city, language, and culture. Some of the events we did involved hiking in the Karst, walking through endless castles, and exploring a Groto Gigante (giant cave!). It was all very empowering as I lived through many first time experiences. My favorite part of the trip was that I could eat the dairy in Italy which is crazy because I have a strict lactose intolerant diet in the US! There were so many pleasant surprises; enough to go back and experience some more!

Learning experience

After the first week of learning Italian, I made the sour realization that I wasn't going to even be slightly fluent by the end of the three week; I was pretty ambitious thinking I could come out semi-fluent. Alas, I was a long way from having the vocabulary of a first grader. The most valuable lesson that I learned from the disappointment that resulted from my realization is that if I want to learn anything, and commit to long-term memory, then I have to put a lot of time and effort in. You can't just step onto a basketball court and be a pro, or walk into the surgery room and perform surgery. There has to be a dedication to that goal with many hours of hard work perfecting the skills that are required to be a pro in that field; whether it be pro basketball, being a surgeon, or learning a language. By the end of the course in Trieste, I had developed more reasonable goals and the understanding of what it takes to achieve them.

Memorable experience

An important characteristic of Trieste is this wind called the 'Bora' that blows through the city ever so often, and its speed can really vary. A museum that we went to dedicated to the Bora taught our group about its significance throughout history, and the name that it’s created for itself. It's said to have been as mild as blowing a hat off of someone's head, to as powerful as carrying a train through the air or ripping a roof off of a house! One night, a group of people and I experienced the wind while we were walking out by the sea and it was incredible! Trying to accomplish the simple task of eating our gelato was made difficult, and we had to hide in a sheltered bus stop to finish. Our clothes became sails, and during certain powerful gusts we had to walk at 45 degree angles. Surprisingly I wasn’t frightened in the slightest, more so astonished with power of the wind and excited that we got to experience it.

What did you not expect?

I didn't expect to fit in so well with the Italian and European culture. I loved the quality of the food, the mannerisms of community members, biking/walking everywhere, the business morals, and the list could go on. There wasn't much to complain about, and I knew going in I planned on being open minded, but I didn't expect to more or less prefer the European lifestyle over my American one. I wasn't going to make a final decision as to where I was going to live in my adulthood while on that trip, and I definitely still have more to discover and explore, but I think I could really see myself living in Europe. This will have a huge impact on my decision making in the future when it comes to where I live and my lifestyle habits.

What advice would you give?

Make sure to go in with an open mind! America lives very differently than the rest of the world (besides the similarities that are mirrored from colonization and immigration) so some things may come as a shock, or the overall experience could be tarnished by endorsing a bad attitude towards the new experiences. I took everything as it came: the new food, the mindset and opinions of the locals, the language barrier, etc.. In doing so, my mind was opened to the potentials that society can reach. My final advice is to live in the moment and do so intentionally, this way every little thing will feel glorious and memory making will come easy.

How has this experience impacted your life?

Since my first year in college, I've wanted to travel and discover the cultures that I've only really been able to explore through the media. As it did for many people, Covid affected my traveling opportunities, so this trip has finally helped me achieve this traveling dream of mine. I got a taste of exploring new lands and now it's my goal to continue seeking more opportunities to travel and see the wide range of cultures for myself. I also realized while studying the Italian language that I really want to keep pushing myself to learn a language. It’s an extremely useful tool not only for traveling, but also for career and endorsing community. Learning a language in three weeks — not enough time to learn anything long-term — helped me gain perspective on the amount of dedication I need to fluently speak a language, and it helped me to set reasonable goals for myself; goals for my language education and for my ideas of living in a foreign country someday.

How did you learn about this experience?

From a friend who also went!

International Connections