The Study Abroad Newsletter

Summer In Florence

Anne Catlin

When I think about it, I can’t believe that it’s been an entire year since Italy. Something has changed in me.

This is my first oil painting, that made in the studio there I never really considered studying abroad. As a young mother of two, my focus has been to get through school and to enjoy time with my two little boys along the way. One of those rare days when I had a break between classes I wandered through the copse of Banyan Trees, in the beautiful yard by the school theater, right into the Global Studies Office.

By chance, Carolina happened to be in and was available to talk. We sat together and she told me about various possibilities, showering me with literature from different programs. She was extremely helpful, and it got me to thinking. On my way out, I saw a stack of notecards tacked on the bulletin board, advertising for an Art program in Florence Italy. I pulled one off and stuck it into the stack of fliers I was carrying.

Art has always been my deepest passion, but I have often put it second to what I considered to be more pressing needs. I kept looking for a place to dedicate my focus that seemed more profitable in the long-run. Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of anything as rewarding, and kept dancing between majors, taking every class that looked interesting. Also, when I allowed everything else to come before my true need, to create art, I felt somehow incomplete.

Just weeks after that visit to the office, I received my acceptance letter to Florence. I had really applied just to see what would happen. It looked exciting, and wondered if it was something I could ever actually do. I still wasn’t convinced that I was doing the right thing when I boarded the plane a couple of months later.

Gelato is good for breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, or dessert I had kissed my children goodbye and left them with our family for the summer. I had never been gone from them before for longer than a week, and hadn’t been on my own, as an individual, ever in my adult life. Until then I had been devoted People ask me how Italy was. I will tell you this: after years of wandering, wading, and searching, I found myself...and since coming back I dove into the trenches of self-doubt, mourning the loss of lightness, the euphoric sense of self-realization, of total wholeness that I felt there and feared I may not feel again, here, in the same way. Let me say that I now know that each of these senses, though above and beyond myself, are mostly within myself, and the things that I learned there will be with me forever.

With that I move forward to come to redefine my existence based on who I am, and what I know, now. How was it? It changed me, it put everything into perspective and fit together a thousand floating pieces of my life's puzzle, just to shatter them again, and I am glowing—because this is the essence of life, and growth and change and love and learning. to being a girlfriend, a mother, or a wife, making decisions based on what was best for my family. What I didn’t realize, is that I hadn’t had the opportunity to come to know myself.

Anne overlooking a valley in Florence Truthfully, when I applied for the program at SACI, I had no real idea what I was getting into. Four months later, I was in a sunlit studio, dancing to salsa music while painting with a room full of women, all from different parts of the world. Each day we came together, laughing with delight at those profound moments of interconnectedness that ignored our differences and seized us at the very core, through a common passion for art.

The ritual was of course, amplified by the one other truth: that I was falling deeply in love with Italy in ways that I couldn’t have expected. I was forever changed by my experience last summer...