Remember when you were ten years old and the beginning of summer meant endless days swimming in the pool, running barefoot through the itchy grass and playing kickball on a dusty baseball diamond until it was too dark to see? Now the only images conjured by the end of the spring semester are those of the dreaded summer job. The lucky among us score that awesome internship at the upstart magazine or the New York Museum of Natural Whatever. The rest are relegated to endless days of summer: endless days of drumming our fingers on greasy Formica countertops while adjusting our polyester uniforms and asking the latest frazzled customer if she wants fries with that super-sized, clog-your-arteries, call-the-ambulance cheeseburger. At least, this is the way I saw summer. Until now.
I worked at a local law firm over Christmas break and faced with the prospect of humbly prostrating myself to that low-wage, mind-numbingly boring job for three more months, I decided to take action. Using my own ingenuity and my parents’ money – which I managed to secure only through a logical and brilliant argument about the benefits of summer study (“Please, Daddy? It’s for school!”) – I applied to the William and Mary Summer Study Abroad program in Florence. Six months later I was on a plane to Italy, the month ahead looming as blank and overwhelming as a white canvas, and wondering if I hadn’t made a terrible, terrible mistake.
Luckily, I had not. Florence was an exceptional city of infinite beauty and culture. The class days were long but not torturous, and it was such a joy to find that on one trip to the San Lorenzo market I could speak in Italian to a local vendor for five minutes without stammering and resorting to “Non lo so” (I don’t know). I enjoyed every minute I spent in Florence; well, almost – there was that day I had mosquito bites on each temple so large it looked as though I were single-handedly re-introducing the Bubonic Plague. The excursion trips were amazing as well. At the Ligurian coast towns known collectively as Cinque Terre I hiked the hills and swam in the clear Ligurian Sea, in the Verrazano winery my friend Jacqueline and I tasted the most delicious Chianti and discovered a little kitten that we named Prosciutto, and during a weekend in Venice I found myself sitting at Harry’s Bar (Ernest Hemingway’s old haunt) and while sipping a $16 martini, realized how fortunate I was to be having this experience. Not to mention the fact I was racking up credits for this little jaunt across the pond.
As for you who spent the summer serving up heart-attacks and fries, if you have the means or opportunity to study abroad, do it. It’s well worth it. And if you think you can’t afford it there are scholarship opportunities available through the Global Education Office. At least look into it. As for me, I am so happy that I got the chance to go to Italy. I haven’t been this excited about summer since I was ten years old, making lanyard bracelets at day camp. But what about next summer, you ask? The thought of an actual job is too unbearable to consider. Maybe I’ll try to land one of those aforementioned internships. Then again, I’ve heard Paris is nice this time of year.