Finding Themself in Florence
When I started searching for colleges, I had no idea what I wanted. I had two very common majors in mind—English and history—that almost every university offered. I toured and applied to public and private, big and small, in-state and out-of-state institutions, waiting for that feeling I'd heard other people describe of stepping onto campus and knowing that was the place you wanted to go. But I never felt it.
In the spring of my senior year of high school, I received an invitation from the Kent State Honors College to apply to a special program called Freshmen in Florence (FIF). Although this specific program is no longer active, there are still plenty of study abroad opportunities in Florence. In this program, I would spend the fall semester of my freshman year in Italy. I had studied Italian for four years in high school and always wanted to travel abroad, so I decided to apply. When I was accepted to FIF, I finally had that feeling.
I knew I wanted to go to Kent and committed immediately, and a few months later, I was on a plane to Europe.
Studying abroad in Italy completely changed my life. I became a much more independent person, met some of my best friends, and made incredible memories during my semester there, from touring vineyards in Chianti to seeing musicals on the West End in London, to visiting museums in Amsterdam. The classes were also amazing—I'll never forget our nighttime field trip to the Uffizi gallery for art history or observing Italian families at a grocery store for psychology. Even the simple moments, like going across the Arno for a pizza with my roommates, were special.
When I came to the Kent campus for the first time, there was definitely an adjustment period to standard college life. However, I had a supportive advisor in the Honors College who helped me adjust, I maintained connections with my friends from studying abroad and I started to meet new friends on campus.
Additionally, the connections I made and the experiences I had through studying abroad also continued to open doors for me.
I was able to pick up minors in Italian Studies, Religion Studies, and Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies thanks to the foundational courses I took in Italy. I also began an internship in the College of Arts and Sciences Office of International Programs and Education Abroad. I went on to write my thesis on Boccaccio's Decameron with an advisor who was my internship supervisor and received several scholarships related to my study abroad program and related academic interests.
I had also gained confidence about traveling and was eager to study abroad again. I signed up for a faculty-led program that aligned with my interests and minor in LGBTQ studies called Researching Queer Britain, which would have involved travel to Belfast, Northern Ireland for oral history fieldwork.
While that trip was unfortunately canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was able to work with Molly Merryman, the professor behind Researching Queer Britain, on a new oral history project called Queer Pandemic. We collected stories of queer people in the UK during COVID-19 for the past two years and presented our research at conferences and are beginning to publish it in journals. The process has been incredibly valuable and enjoyable.
I have since graduated from Kent State in August 2022 and will be attending Birkbeck, University of London for graduate school. I've been lucky throughout my time at Kent to have the support and mentorship of wonderful faculty who have helped me realize that I want to pursue a career in academia, and this M.A. program is an important next step to my ultimate goal of earning a Ph.D. and becoming a faculty member myself.
When I was considering colleges, I had no idea how many interesting programs, people and opportunities were available at Kent State, but ultimately, I'm so glad I received my undergraduate degree here. I’ve learned and grown so much, and I know I’ll always look back on this experience fondly.