Baylor study abroad: Monica Lake in Italy

Beginning this month, we will use occasional posts on the College of Arts & Sciences blog to bring you first-hand reports from Baylor students and alumni who are studying or serving abroad.

In this initial post we hear from Monica Lake of Dallas, a Baylor senior who is majoring in journalism-public relations with minors in film and business. Monica is one of the students who are taking part this year in the popular Baylor in Florence study abroad program. Here is her advice to those considering studying in another country, as well as some photos she sent us from Italy.

Studying Abroad: The Places You’ll Go
by Monica Lake

“Congratulations! You’re studying abroad. You’re off to great places! You’re off and away! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

Okay, I have to credit Dr. Seuss for most of that, but it applies. If you are even considering studying abroad, my advice is: do it. College is a unique time in your life where you can pick up and leave for an extended period of time and not suffer any major consequences. And you actually get course credit for hanging out in Europe, or wherever your heart might take you.

My heart took me to Florence, Italy. Traveling is one of my biggest passions, and Tuscany was a box on my bucket list that had yet to be checked off. The essence of Italy captivated me, and I ached to go see the beautiful vineyards and historic architecture for myself.

It’s okay to not know anyone on the trip. I hardly knew anyone, and now most of us are inseparable. I would actually encourage taking a trip you don’t know anyone on. It gives you a chance to open up and be willing to try things you may not have tried before. Or to be friends with people you would have never pictured yourself being friends with before. Its not awkward for long, and you spend enough time together to be best friends by day two.

Speaking of trying new things, try the food! Do not go to McDonald’s or the Hard Rock Café unless you are dying. All of the food there is more or less the same as in America. I promise. I had never eaten a tomato before I came to Italy, and today I had tomatoes for lunch. Just tomatoes. Forget about that happy meal and go try a gyro, a crêpe or a kebab. You may be pleasantly surprised and find a new favorite food.

You will most likely be visiting a plethora of castles, museums and churches wherever you are. This could start to seem tedious or redundant after a while since there’s so many historic buildings, but look at it as a learning experience instead of just another tour. Do some research beforehand, and find out some interesting stories behind it. This way, you’ll be equipped with knowledge and questions for the tour guide, as well as know the significance behind what you are seeing. Doing research can turn a regular museum tour into walking the halls of the school where Michelangelo once studied.

Get lost. Literally. I know that probably goes against what your mom told you before you left, but it’s the best way to experience Europe. Be smart, and get lost with a buddy or a cell phone though. My best experiences in Italy have been from the nights I decided to walk around with no agenda or direction.

We found a secret bakery that opens its doors at 1 a.m. to sell fresh baked goods. We stumbled upon a little ledge off the side of a bridge where we could sit with a perfect view of Ponte Vecchio. While jogging, my friend and I decided to take on a giant hill and ended up at the top of Piazza Michelangelo overlooking the entire city. My best moments have been my lost moments.

Most importantly, immerse yourself in the culture. Don’t be afraid to ride a vespa, dress like a European, drop everything for a siesta, talk to an attractive Italian, or eat too much Nutella. You’re not in Europe all the time, so you might as well get everything you can from the experience. You’ll be packing your bags before you know it, so go ahead and step out of your comfort zone and experience Baylor in Europe. Dr. Seuss put it this way: “You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.”


Monica discusses her photos from Italy pictured above:

PHOTO NO. 1 — at top: “On one of our weekend trips to Cinque Terre, we stopped in Pisa to see the leaning tower. We took some stereotypical ‘holding up the tower’ pictures, along with a classic jumping shot.” Pictured (L to R) are Monica Lake, Courtney Roberts, Madeline Lloyd, Callie Jo Clevenger and Mallory Olivier.
PHOTO NO. 2: “We pose above the city of Florence at Piazza San Michelangelo, which provides breathtaking views of the entire city.” Pictured (L to R) are Monica Lake, Callie Jo Clevenger and Madeline Lloyd.
PHOTO NO. 3: “Callie Jo Clevenger poses with a gondolier in Venice. The profession of gondolier is very prestigious there, and only three or four new ones are hired each year.”
PHOTO NO. 4: “This was our daily view from the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.”
PHOTO NO. 5 — at bottom: “Callie Jo Clevenger shoots a goofy photo of a fellow student, Michael Davidson, during a walking tour of Venice. We took a photography class abroad, so we routinely got lost during tours when got caught up taking pictures.”

One Response

  1. Hannah Haseloff at |

    Hey I am doing an assignment for a class at Baylor and I was wondering if you could email me some of the pictures you posted on this blog, they would be perfect. Especially the one with the three girls and the skyline in the background.


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