Friday, August 4, 2017

Ciao! and Ciao!

As I pulled my suitcase out from under my bed to begin packing, I found my old boarding pass from my flight to Rome. I gripped this crumpled paper and realized how much this summer abroad has impacted my life. Now that I am hours away from touching ground on American soil, I am taking time to reflect on the entire experience.

Seven weeks ago, I boarded a flight to Italy not knowing what to expect. The extent of my Italian consisted of knowing how to say “good morning” and “thank you,” and, if I was feeling confident, I could ask, “Where is the bathroom?” Other than my liking for Italian cuisine, I was mostly unfamiliar with Italian culture. My only knowledge about traveling in Italy came from quick google searches that often resulted in an overwhelming amount of information.

In addition to the endless Italian unknowns, I came into this trip not knowing what to expect regarding our research study. My interest in women’s health was primarily based off limited classroom education and personal experience. In fact, I was far from knowledgeable on women’s reproductive and sexual health issues. I was hesitant about the responsibility of finding women to interview and worried that I was in over my head. Despite the worries, I fully immersed myself into Italian culture and committed to excelling in the research program.

Throughout my time here, I took advantage of the weekends to travel and experience other parts of Italy. Whether it was the group Venice trip or Lake Garda on my own, I have figured out who I am as a traveler. It turns out that I much prefer the calm and smaller villages rather than crowded, tourist-filled cities. I learned to break away from the comfort of my apartment and adventure to unfamiliar places and try unique foods.

On the weekdays, I fell into routine and started each morning with a cappuccino and warm croissant. The day time was spent in the classroom or actively working on research related duties. In the afternoon, I found myself doing daily tasks such as hand-washing my clothes, making a trip to the market, or taking a short nap (as the Italians do). A typical evening consisted of a delicious, hearty dinner and a few scoops of gelato for dessert. The nights often ended by preparing for the following day of class and research.  

Fast-forward to today, and our team of fifteen students has successfully completed a research project. Accomplishing such a task was intense work. Little did I know how demanding the research course load would be when interviewing for a position on this trip. In the end, all the efforts to recruit women to share their personal stories, to transcribe hour-long interviews, to code the results, and to draft a manuscript have transformed me as a student. I am coming back to school with new writing, researching, and communication skills that will stay with me through the course of my education and career. Best of all, my initial interest in women’s health has now evolved itself into true passion.

It was an honor to share a role and responsibility on this research project. I am looking forward to bringing this rewarding experience back to Purdue with me. Through the ups and the downs, the memories I have made in Italy will be cherished forever. As I greeted Florence with a “ciao” seven weeks ago, I am once again saying “ciao” as I depart back to the United States.

This post was written by Chandler Dykstra, a sophomore studying Nutrition Science. She intends to go to medical school and specialize in endocrinology.


  1. Each of you have grown and will have memories for a lifetime.

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  3. Thank you Great post. really helpful site