Office of Study Abroad

Profile: Eva Tibbetts '25

Eva Tibbetts

Major/minor: Undeclared — Psychology / Pre-Med

Study abroad program: CET Midyear in Florence Fall 2021

Reason you chose this program: When I first got my acceptance letter into Brandeis, I saw the giant letters spell "Midyear" and automatically thought, "what?" That was the last thing I would've expected, but the more I looked into it, the more promising it sounded. As a Midyear, you come into the school a semester later than the rest of your class. This meant that I had a whole semester to think about, and after seeing the option of studying abroad, I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do. So I, of course, explored the options given to me, and I made my final decision and picked Florence as my final destination for my first semester of college.

Favorite classes: While I was in Florence, I took a plethora of interesting courses, but my favorites were Food and Culture in Italy with my professor Simon and Beginners Italian with my professor Ida. By far, Food and Culture in Italy was the most interesting class I have ever taken. I loved learning about the history behind Italian Food and Italian Culture while also taking delight in the chance to have taste tests in class. With this course, I learned more about Italian culture and that nothing meant more to an Italian than their cuisine. Beginners Italian was also a great course because it was essential to understand the language I was surrounded by, and it also broadened my range of communication skills. It is incredibly humbling to be in a brand new space where you stuck out like a sore thumb. But with that, I got to meet so many locals and create great connections solely due to my amazingly caring and supportive professor.

How did you incorporate your Brandeis areas of study into your study abroad experience? Knowing that I was aspiring to follow the pre-med track under a psychology major, it was a bit of a no-brainer that a good majority of the courses offered did not support my requirements, but this did not stop me. Instead, I looked at my classes as an opportunity to get some Brandeis core classes out of the way and use these courses given as stepping stones to understand the Florence community, Italian culture and history, and to enjoy my time abroad.

Housing situation: For the semester, I stayed in a six-person apartment (five were Brandeis Midyears, and the one was a gap-year student). Of course, going from living in the comforts of your home to automatically living with five other people felt a little cozy, but we made it work. I had a roommate, Skye, who quickly became my best friend as we spent nearly all our time together (sometimes too much time together). The apartment had four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a kitchen, a common area, and a mudroom. This apartment was very grand, which was rare to find in European-styled apartments — which we were fortunate to have. The window for the bedroom that I shared with Skye looked out to the other apartments that surrounded us. With an occasional cat that rolled around on the roofs, which we named Fitsgerald (or Fitzy for short). The common area had two large windows that looked out to the street below, where we would often see a passerby, the locals leaving for their day of duties, and a shopkeeper opening up his business. The kitchen had a window... but it only looked into the other room within our apartment, so we kept it closed. All in all, it was great! It felt like I was part of the community!

What were some parts of your identity that you thought about while considering study abroad that other students may want to talk to you about? I was someone who moved around a lot as a kid, 12 times, for that matter. So I had thought that traveling abroad would be easy for me to handle, but it was harder than I anticipated. Although, I was able to acclimate quickly, I later became homesick. I was missing my family. I felt virtually alone only because I missed being around their comfort and love.

It is normal for everyone to have some form of anxiety and guilt about being so far away from home, but there is also a rare type of freedom that comes with it. While being away, you can truly see who is looking out for you and supporting you. You also start to realize how independent you genuinely are, which is much more than many can grasp. So my tip is that nearly everyone will be homesick but always remember that you get to go home when your semester is over! So spend all the time available to you to explore and test the waters of the new environment that's open to you! All while keeping whomever you are missing in your heart as you travel.

Favorite memory: I frankly can not have a favorite memory because the whole experience was extraordinary! I, however, can talk about some of the memories that I have! My friends and I would constantly explore the streets of Florence, with every corner bringing something new, whether it was unique boutiques, hole-in-the-walls, or beautiful sights. We would also try such exquisite foods at our favorite restaurants while becoming friendly with the wait staff and owners/managers. We also loved going out and enjoying the nightlife that Florence had to offer.

I especially enjoyed exploring museums and art galleries and witnessing so many intriguing parts of history. I, of course, can't forget how much I loved my routine of getting to school every day. Of getting a small breakfast, saying hello to the tabaccheria owner's sweet miniature black schnauzer, Luna, and then getting to walk across Ponte alle Grazie (a bridge) and look at the river and mountains in the distance — my walk at Brandeis sadly cannot top that. Overall, I loved meeting so many interesting people, whether that be my two best friends or Florence locals!

Greatest challenge: Other than missing my family and constantly being humbled by the Italian community, I think that the biggest challenge was wrapping my head around the idea of me being in a foreign country and living independently. I believed myself to be independent before traveling abroad, but now I see myself as more versatile than ever before. I just learned to let the community guide me, make efforts to understand the culture, and just enjoy my time. Everything seemed a little scary at first, but it was easy peasy after getting used to the motions.

What you know now that you didn't know before: I now know how much more I am capable of. After overcoming so much, I understood myself a lot better. I am more vibrant, more adaptable, more cultured, and more understanding than I have ever been before. My experience allowed me to understand myself in such a different light, seeing how big the world truly is and how ample your opportunities and strengths are. However, when people say that the world is your oyster, I really think it should be described as a larger-sized mollusk.

Fact about Florence that you think people would be surprised to learn: THE CUSTOMER IS NOT ALWAYS RIGHT, and I live for that ideology! There would be so many times that I saw others denied a request solely because red wine does not go with fish, certain flavors of gelato should not sit together in the same cup, and that sometimes they were just plain wrong. Luckily, because my friends and I took Food and Culture in Italy, we knew the "food rules!"

But because we also made friends with so many waiters and waitresses, everyone was so open to helping with not only our Italian skills but also our choices of food. Wherever you choose to go, never believe that you run the streets because you will make yourself look like a fool in someone's eyes. Just be open to experience and let others guide you; it's okay not to know.

“I am more vibrant, more adaptable, more cultured, and more understanding than I have ever been before. My experience allowed me to understand myself in such a different light, seeing how big the world truly is and how ample your opportunities and strengths are.”

Eva Tibbetts '25