Hayley Bratcher stayed home when her sister Kelley traveled to South Korea to teach. She listened to Kelley’s stories and looked at her pictures showing amazing adventures abroad.
These days, Hayley gets to tell her older sister about her own adventures studying abroad in Italy.
Hayley said she decided to study abroad for a semester because the price is comparative to studying at MTSU. She also received a scholarship that helped. Hayley’s sister and their mother encouraged her to go.
Hayley graduated from in the top 10 percent of her class from Warren County High School in 2010 and is currently a junior at MTSU. She is concentrating her studies on Spanish and psychology.
Hayley has been in Milan, Italy since September and will return in January. She is studying Italian language, art history, psychology, and sociology in Milan. In the last 3 months she has traveled to Venice, Verona, Cinque Terra, Paris, and other cities. She has spent a week in London, and has plans to travel to Holland and Rome before she returns to the U.S
Hayley said she picked Italy to study in because she did not have enough credits in Spanish to go to a Spanish speaking country, and she was ready to study abroad. She also thought Italy seemed to have more sights to see than Mexico or South America.
According to Hayley, living in Milan is more difficult than living in the United States. “For example, there are strikes where the buses and metro completely stop and you have no transportation. It is difficult not knowing the language. Daily life can be much more difficult with a language barrier and a different culture,” she said.
The art and architecture of Italy and Europe which dates back to the 1400-1500s impressed Hayley. “”I’ve had a chance to see several works by Leonardo da Vinci, such as the Mona Lisa, Virgin of the Rocks, and many scientific sketches. There are many churches and castles that have impressed me. In the center of Milan, there is the Duomo which is a large cathedral boasting sculptures, paintings, and the history of Milan. In Milan, I have also visited the Sforza castle of the 1400s. I’m planning a trip to Rome to see the Sistine chapel,” Hayley said.
Hayley said the people and culture of Italy is very diverse. “They all speak two or more languages. There are so many ethnicities that are first or second generation emigrants from Africa, India and surrounding European countries,” she said.
The culture did take some getting used to, according to Hayley. “Strikes happen quite frequently and can really mess up your daily life. People are very involved in politics and sports. Soccer here is a main attraction. Several items that are common in the U.S. can’t be found here, like linens. I was struggling to find a towel here! There are less imported goods especially,” said Hayley.
Hayley said the families in Italy are much more linked and stay in touch often. “The people are very fashionable. Staring is common. It sometimes seems nosy. But, the people are very friendly and helpful with directions. Usually people are helpful and happy or surprised to know I am a foreign exchange student who picked Italy to study,” she said.
Hayley said Italians’ perception of Americans is that everything is bigger in the United States, “My roommate from Holland described what she thought about America in one word, ‘Big’,” Hayley said.
Hayley says she is an Italian language beginner. “Sometimes I just have to nod and smile. I don’t know everything, but I try my best,” she said.
She said more people in Europe learn English as a second language from early on. “The urge to learn English, I think, is more wanted by the younger crowd who have been more exposed to western culture. My roommate whose native language is Dutch has studied English for many years and feels that it is the global language. It can link you to all kinds of people whose native language is not English,” she said.
Hayley said she experienced some homesickness even though Skype and Facebook kept her in good contact with her family and friends. “I have skyped with my whole family during holiday events. But, I think experiencing homesickness is a common experience and part of the culture shock of living abroad,” she said.
Hayley said she would consider living in Italy permanently. “My university here, the Universitá Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, is a really good school here in Italy. I would consider doing a masters program. I have met a few Americans doing a masters degree at Cattolica. Also, Spanish is quite similar to Italian, so picking up Italian would be easier once I finished school with Spanish. Although I think I would live here semi-permanently, I am still wanting to travel and live more places other than the States,” she said.
Hayley said she would recommend to anyone to travel abroad. She said, “I would definitely recommend it to everyone just to get out of the box and see new sights. It is also great to live abroad and not feel like a tourist. I have made so many memories and this has been the trip of a lifetime.”
Hayley is the daughter of Jerry and Janie Bratcher.