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The Summer of Dreams - Harvard Study Abroad Program

Before move-in weekend my freshmen year at Harvard, I had never been more north than Washington D.C. Christmas break that same year was my first time on a plane.And then…one fateful day in my sophomore year, I heard that I was accepted into a Harvard Summer School Study Abroad program with full financial aid. Suddenly, I was applying for my first passport, having my first two month suitcase packing experience, and boarding my first international flight!


I have always dreamt of traveling the world. My bucket list is full of countries and cities that I’ve read about or seen pictures of (Pinterest really doesn’t help with that wanderlust). I knew I wanted to try to study abroad during my college experience. Harvard’s incredible opportunities both in terms of programs and financial aid for studying abroad is one of the things that first drew me to Harvard. I personally wanted to study abroad during the summer as it would allow me to not miss any part of the term-time experience at Harvard. While there are many different ways to find summer abroad programs (from specific offices or departments at Harvard to outside organizations), I found my program through the Harvard Summer School which partners with the Office of Career Services. The Study Abroad Programs are diverse in location (Central America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia!) and topic (Language, Biology, Culture, Economics!). Some require previous experience, such as a laboratory class for lab intensive courses or language skills for those conducted solely in a foreign language.

The program that I was in is called Innovation and Aesthetics and is based in Milan and Siena, Italy. We discussed the philosophical ideas behind beauty, what things are considered beautiful, art, fashion, cultural economics, cinema, literature, culture, change, and creative industries. We had lecture three days a week, a weekly section, and a weekly day-long field trip. I also opted to take the beginner Italian class which met three days a week as well. Outside of class, we had musuem outings, film screenings, special guest lectures, and Italian dinners. Our weekends were free so we often used that to explore more of Italy. Throughout the two month period, I also saw Venice, Florence, Rome, Bologna, and Parma on my own time! Some of the highlights of the trip for me was a food tour in Tuscany, a boat ride on Lake Como, seeing the Vatican, meeting the mayor of Siena, eating way too much gelato, learning to make latte art, seeing the famous and ancient Palio event (go Bruco!) and staying in a real castle overnight! I also cannot NOT mention the incredible professor and TFs - Professor Erspamer, Julianne, and Chiara are truly some of the most caring, helpful, hilarious, knowledgable, and all around great people I know!


Above: Gelato addicts unite


Building on study abroad trip


Above: The Trevi Fountain in Rome

I was able to travel with some of my closest friends as they also attended the program and made new friends as well! I gained confidence when dealing with the struggles that naturally come up when traveling and living in a foreign country. I crossed many things off my bucket list. And I reflected on life, culture, art, religion daily. This reflection combined with what we learned in class has truly shaped how I view the world around me and has helped me make connections in my personal life as well as in my current classes.

I never thought I would be able to travel for two months, much less in Italy! I especially never thought I could do it without creating an enormous amount of debt for myself or winning the lottery. But Harvard’s incredible financial support made my dream a reality. So I guess I really did win that lottery after all.

About the author

Hi everyone! I’m Alexis, and I’m a senior at Harvard College. I’m originally from Radford, Virginia, and I live in Cabot House here on campus. I study History of Science, and I plan to enroll in a... View full profile

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