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An Idaho Journalist in Italy

Olivia Heersink, a junior in U of I’s School of Journalism and Mass Media is studying journalism and cooking in Viterbo, Italy.

Growing up in the small town of Fruitland, Idaho, Olivia Heersink dreamed of studying abroad.

But when she got to college, she found herself always coming up with excuses as to why it wasn’t feasible for her to be able to go.

“I was convinced it was going to set back my graduation,” Heersink said.

After researching options on the University of Idaho’s study abroad website, she found a program that was within her price range and benefitted her degree audit.

“Last September, I realized that if I was ever going to do this, it was now or never,” Heersink said. “I found a program that actually benefitted by major, and I felt like I kind of had to go.”

Heersink, a junior studying journalism, is spending the spring 2018 semester in Viterbo, Italy, a town an hour north of Rome. While there, she is taking a number of courses that will help her to graduate, including a travel journalism class and two photography classes.

Immersing Herself in Foreign Culture

In addition, Heersink is also trying to have an authentic Italian experience by taking classes in beginning Italian and Italian cuisine.

“I’m studying at more of a smaller town, so I think I’m getting more of a genuine experience and getting to speak with locals and build relationships with professors like you would in the states,” Heersink said. “Once I learned how to make pasta noodles, I figured that was all I needed.”

While abroad, Heersink has been able to explore countries and cities that, until this point, she had only dreamed about seeing. She has travelled to many cities across Italy, as well as Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic, Ireland and Germany.

“My favorite thing has been getting to see all of these places that I have read about so many times,” Heersink said. “The places I have been to have been incredible, but the people I have met have been even more incredible.”

Making Studying Abroad a Reality

The University of Idaho’s study International Programs Office partners with more than 370 international colleges in 60 countries all over the globe.

“You may think you can’t do it, but if you meet with the study abroad office, they will help you make it happen,” Heersink said. “They know it is the experience of a lifetime. And you may find out it was a lot more realistic than you thought.”

“Studying abroad is the experience of a lifetime because at no other time are you surrounded by a different culture and language, with no expectations except to learn and to become a better person,” Heersink said.

The Benefits of Travel

While studying abroad, Heersink has also gained an appreciation of her hometown and country, as well as being more understanding of different kinds of people.

“I think the biggest thing I have gained is an appreciation of where I come from and the American culture,” Heersink said. “There is an immense appreciation of home, though not homesickness. But, you realize we are so quick to throw stones, but we actually have it really well in America.”

Heersink said she is so grateful that she finally took the steps to make studying abroad a reality, because it has changed her life and her perspective.

“You can come up with a million and one excuses in your head, but as soon as you step off that plane, it makes it all worth it,” Heersink said. “Every single day you wake up and are thankful to be here.”

Article by Madison Perdue ’18, Public Relations, CLASS
Published June 2018

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