Natalie Bycraft, 2016 Public Relations graduate

Student Finishes College Experience With Study Abroad In Italy

For my last semester of college, I am living in Trastevere, a town within Rome, for five weeks! I can’t think of a better way to conclude my college years.

2016 Public Relations graduate, Natalie Bycraft has recently made the move from Michigan to Phoenix, Arizona to be the Communication Specialist at Service Group of America. Before ending her college career, Bycraft studied abroad in Italy.

Lessons from Italy

By: Natalie Bycraft (wc: 1,131)

As a freshman at Ferris State University, I realized my dream of taking a study abroad trip. I didn’t know where I’d go, but as someone who has always had a passion for traveling, the idea of it stood out to me. Four years at Ferris flew by, and I still hadn’t done what I’d so looked forward to doing. I figured I was simply out of time, but when Dr. Bishop presented his public relations students with the opportunity to study abroad at John Cabot University in Rome, I immediately thought to myself, “I’m going.”

For my last semester of college, I am living in Trastevere, a town within Rome, for five weeks! I can’t think of a better way to conclude my college years.


The Colosseum

When I first saw the Colosseum in the distance, my jaw dropped. Its size alone is impressive, but then I walked in. I was in this massive structure where, ages ago, the killing of countless people and animals was looked at as entertainment. I stood exactly where someone would have sat back then, while they were cheering at death. That’s the thing about Rome; almost everywhere you go, you’re walking on history itself.

Trevi Fountain

The Fontana di Trevi was one of my favorite things to see in Rome. I’ve seen it in movies and in pictures, but none of that could have prepared me for how incredible it is. I was in awe. The Trevi Fountain depicts Ocean in the middle and Tritons on either side. Traditionally, one throws three coins into the fountain. The first coin you toss ensures your safe return to Rome. I have a feeling it will work…


Montepulciano and Montalcino are both gorgeous hill towns in Tuscany. One weekend, a small group of us took a wine tasting trip to these cities. I cannot begin to explain how perfect the day was. Imagine sipping delicious Italian wine in a chair under the shade of the trees, all while looking out over the Tuscan countryside.

Seeing all that I have seen during this semester has truly affected my perceptions, opinions, and behaviors.


The majority of my time in Florence was spent either in the leather markets or along the Ponte Vecchio, a famous bridge lined with shops. My favorite part about the trip had to be exploring the city with no particular plan in mind; simply experiencing it.

Bellagio and Lake Como

Bellagio, a city on a peninsula surrounded by Lake Como, is encircled by mountains. The view alone was enough to make this small town my favorite part of Italy, but also I got to walk around, see the city, and unwind by the lake.

The Vatican

I visited the Vatican City four times while in Rome. As the smallest country in the world, the Vatican holds an incredible amount of history. Within the Vatican Museums, famous pieces by Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci are still displayed proudly. Every piece in the Vatican Museums has its own unique history. For example, Michelangelo labored over the Sistine Chapel ceiling for four years and I got to see it with my own eyes. I stood directly below the Creation of Adam that day. I am a fan of Leonardo da Vinci’s work, and I was lucky enough to get to see some of his artwork right in front of me (as well as at another museum).


Seeing all that I have seen during this semester has truly affected my perceptions, opinions, and behaviors. This is my first time living outside the United States for a period of time. My favorite part about this entire experience has been just living here. The eternal city has become my normal, everyday life, which is something that I never expected to be able to say.

All of these experiences, plus the countless smaller day-to-day events, have collectively contributed to my immersion into the Italian culture and also to changing the way I think. Everything that I have experienced and everyone I have met has taught me something new. Every new friend, street vendor, night out, train malfunction, class period, weekend trip, bus ride, and tragic event is a “teacher.”

Looking to study abroad in Italy too? Here are some lessons that may benefit you:

  • Ask people to correct your pronunciation of Italian words. That way they can help you learn.
  • “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.” Especially when it comes to the trains.
  • If the street vendor says it’s free, don’t take it. It’s not free.
  • When I first got to Italy, I thought that siesta was cool. But then, I realized that it is necessary. The heat of the day exhausts you to the point where you need to recharge with a nap.
  • Though not fluent yet, I am able to carry out some basic conversations in Italian. Professionally, this will give me an edge over others in certain international business situations, and it will for you too.
  • You have to pay for the water at restaurants. But why do that when the best water in the city pours out of fountains outside non-stop?
  • Be prepared to walk almost everywhere. I have walked an average of six miles each day (according to my phone), and many days have been more than that.
  • Be careful with passing cars and scooters; they would not hesitate to hit you.
  • Judge each Gelateria by its banana gelato. The more yellow in color it is, the more artificial all their gelato is. The real stuff should appear more grey.
  • Homework is hard enough to get done without all of Rome outside your window. Make time to get it done little by little so it doesn’t pile up and hinder your last week of fun.
  • Only put your heels on if you’re feeling brave.
  • Try to always have more than just credit cards on you. Many restaurants and bars will expect you to pay with cash.
  • Travel on the weekends! Within Italy, outside of the country, or even around Rome. It’s much cheaper to do it while you are already in Europe.
  • Try to learn the bus and train system early on, just in case you need it.
  • In the case of taking an art history course like I did, I realized how much more valuable the information is when you are seeing the works of art right in front of you, instead of looking at pictures of them.

It was difficult to narrow my list of lessons down this far, but that’s one of the great things about studying abroad; most of the learning takes place outside the classroom.

Thanks to both Ferris State University and John Cabot University, I was able to have one of the best experiences of my life.

For more information about study abroad opportunities available at Ferris, click here.


Public Relations