Today I spent a good chunk of time rallying support around saving Sarah Lawrence’s study abroad program in Florence. I did something I’ve never done, I started a petition on Change.org, and over the course of nine hours over 400 signatures poured in from around the country. There were names I hadn’t seen in a decade from former professors to classmates. My heart felt so full that so many people felt the way I did about my beloved study abroad program.
I recognize the perils of modern activism, which is why I’m working to figure out what to do next with the support we have for saving the program.
I have so many feelings in this moment. I’m energized and feeling valiant yet I’m also sad. For me, my study abroad experience changed my life. Though it was almost a decade ago now, I still find myself reflecting on my time there and the lessons I learned. It was all just so invaluable. It ignited my love for travel, which set me down a lifelong path of self discovery through travel.
Having come from a middle class background, growing up travel was always something limited to to the East coast. We always had nice vacations, but European vacations were unachievable pipe dreams. My study abroad experience opened up a world to me that was out of reach. I would have never been able to travel to Europe without the support of my college. I recognized that at the time and took in every experience.
I was so grateful. Just so immensely grateful for everything I learned during my time in Florence. To say it changed my life is an understatement. It totally changed who I was and set the course for who I would become.
Sarah Lawrence’s program is so unique. I had a lot of friends who studied abroad, but none of their experiences were like mine. While they were living in dorms and avoiding the language of their host country, I was living with a family and speaking Italian, albeit on the level of a second grader.
I pushed myself to try new things in Florence. I took an art class under the world renowned artist Swietlan Nicholas Kraczyna. I got to know him and we all ate lunch at his house. We worked in his studio. I made handmade prints of my own art on his printing press.
I feel like my heart is so full reflecting on my time in Florence. My study abroad experience has never ever been something I’ve taken for granted, and the thought that other students would not get to experience this is so incredibly heartbreaking. The program has existed for 30 years and now is under duress due to budget cuts. It’s so short sighted, and frankly, foolish to cut this program. I am so disappointed and will do all I can to work to save it.
I know most of you reading this probably didn’t go to school with me, but if you value travel and education, I hope you consider signing the petition as well.