Erin Southard, a senior Merchandising, Apparel, and Textiles major at The University of Kentucky, did a partner program at Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence, Italy. Erin was abroad for four months during the Fall 2015 semester.
What program did you choose and why?
I chose the API program in Florence, Italy. Students who previously studied abroad in Florence referred API to me. Lorenzo de’ Medici offered the classes I needed to finish my major. API also had excursions built into the program, and that was very appealing.
How did you prepare yourself to spend a whole semester abroad?
I followed a lot of travel bloggers and started to get familiar with the culture before I arrived. I kept a journal and wrote down everything I wanted to get out of studying abroad. I wrote down my goals before I went, and it served as a daily reminder of what I wanted to accomplish.
What did you study/do abroad, and how is that different from what you could have done at UK or in the US?
I studied fashion merchandising. The professors at Lorenzo de Medici all had at least five years of background in the industry, which brought real life scenarios into the classroom.
If I didn’t have the opportunity to go abroad, I would have never been able to learn retail math and buying concepts from a buyer who worked at Lord & Taylor for thirteen years or study trend forecasting from a designer who debuts her collections in Fashion Week.
How did your experience impact your future career plans?
From my experience abroad, I found new inspirations that motivate me and now have a better focus on what exactly I want to do.
In general, what things did you learn in Italy related to your studies and otherwise?
From my studies, I feel that I am as industry ready as possible. Not only from my courses but the opportunities, like Milan Fashion Week, exposed me to situations that cannot be taught in a classroom.
This entire experience enhanced my passion for this industry as well as built my confidence in being able to try new and different things. I was out of my comfort zone daily but realized I love change and I love exploring new things.
What were the most challenging and the most rewarding parts about being abroad?
The most challenging part was the time change, and finding time to talk to family and friends. The most rewarding part was that I felt like I got to know myself better. Studying abroad takes away all the mindless habits we have, like being glued to a screen, and allowed me to focus more on myself.
I went to study abroad with my best friend, not thinking about any other potential friendships I would make. Our friend Katie, who we met in Florence, goes to University of Massachusetts and I can’t imagine life without her now.
What’s the biggest takeaway from your experience?
Studying abroad forces you to get outside of your comfort zone and allows you to be 100% you. My biggest takeaway from my time abroad was realizing who I am, what I want and exactly where I want to be. Although I only spent four months abroad, I gained an entirely different perspective in that short amount of time. If you have the chance to study abroad, take it! I promise you’ll come back new and improved.
Kristie Kovarovic is a senior at The University of Kentucky studying Communications. She participated in the API program in Florence, Italy in Fall 2015.