Adventures in Italy: A Kent State Love Story

“We met on an adventure, and we’re continuing to live out that adventure together.”

Despite living in the same residence hall on the Kent Campus, Andrew “Andy” Wyatt, ’16, had to travel nearly 4,500 miles to get to know the love of his life. Andy and Abby Steger, ’16, began their love story as undergraduate students in the Kent State Florence education-abroad program.

“I’d seen her around a few times on campus, and we both lived in the Honors College dorms, but we didn’t really talk,” said Andy.

The two were part of the same study abroad cohort in Florence, Italy, in 2014. Andy studied English literature while Abby majored in fashion design. After receiving encouragement from a mutual friend, Andy finally decided to talk to Abby. As Abby recalls, he made a great first impression.

“He was very outgoing, much more than myself,” said Abby. “Not much seemed to intimidate him.”

After attending his own orientation, Andy sat through Abby’s and struck up a conversation with her afterward, asking her on their first date. The pair went to a nice local restaurant in Florence where they sat and talked for hours, taking in the view along the Arno River.

And they have been together ever since. Andy and Abby got engaged in 2022 and married in May 2023.

Before studying abroad in Florence, Andy had never traveled outside of the U.S. In preparation for the trip, he had taken Italian language classes, which both impressed Abby and helped with his undergraduate thesis on Italian literature.

“I was able to visit northern Italy to work in libraries and meet scholars who specialized in my topic area,” said Andy. “It was very impactful to do that work on the ground, in the place where this writing was produced, and it led to my dissertation topics in graduate school, so it was an experience I took with me well beyond my semester abroad.”

Andy, an Ohio native, and Abby, who is originally from Minnesota, are two of thousands of students Kent State has educated in Florence during the past 50 years. After graduating from Kent State, both lived and worked in New York City – Andy for Columbia University and Abby for international fashion brand Ralph Lauren. The couple agrees that their time in Florence prepared them for their respective careers.

“Studying design in Italy encouraged me to be a little braver with my creativity, to take some risks,” said Abby. “I'm still proud of the work I did that semester.”

Though her approach to design has changed since then, Abby continuously strives to cultivate the attitude of her time studying abroad – to be a little more bold.

Similarly, Andy’s education-abroad experience has prepared him for a career in higher education. Andy currently serves as assistant director of student affairs for the Kent State University Florence Center. Abby is a freelance knitwear designer.

In 2023, the couple returned to Italy for Andy’s new role at the Kent State Florence Center and officially made Italy their home. Italy is a country that offers both Andy and Abby opportunities for growth in their respective careers, making the move viable for that reason, too.

Andy encourages students to study abroad, emphasizing the rarity of such opportunities and the incredible impact living like a local in a foreign country can have on an individual.

“I have never met anyone who participated in a Kent State education-abroad program that regretted going,” said Andy. “They were devastated that the experience was over, so take the opportunity if you can.”

A Kent State education-abroad experience can have many positive impacts – both professionally and personally. Students are able to hone current skills and develop new ones and, who knows, maybe even meet the love of their life.

“We met on an adventure, and we’re continuing to live out that adventure together,” said Andy.

Abby – who Andy describes as intelligent, beautiful, creative, resilient and caring – shares a similar sentiment.

“I had the feeling that my path had crossed with this person on a big adventure, who wanted to look under every rock and experience absolutely everything,” said Abby. “Life with Andy has definitely lived up to that. Every adventure has been a little bigger and more rewarding than the last.”

POSTED: Tuesday, February 13, 2024 04:06 PM
Updated: Tuesday, February 13, 2024 04:06 PM