Interview conducted on March 13, 2016
“Travelling for me offers new perspectives on the world. It provides inspiration for the work I do. I love being a tourist sometimes and other times just going somewhere with no plans and seeing what happens. Travelling is like hitting the reset button and starting a new chapter. It can feel disconnected from ‘real life’ at times but seem completely normal and everyday. For me, travelling is always a new adventure!”
TCK: What is the name of your school and what is your degree going to be in?
JH: I am working toward my MFA in Physical Theatre at the Accademia dell’Arte in Italy. The school is associated with the Mississippi University for Women in the US so the degree will be valid in the US after I graduate.
TCK: What made you choose the school in Italy?
JH: I was looking for a graduate degree in performance in theatre. While I definitely looked at going abroad, I never considered Italy. After researching the school and speaking to some of the faculty and staff, I knew that this program was the best choice for me. The program is so different than anything I’ve learned in the states. I knew that I wanted to challenge myself by going to grad school and this program has definitely done that so far!
“Sometimes a place you never considered is the best place for you at that time in your life. Keep your options open to what’s out there and go with your gut.”
TCK: Do you think your travels to England made it easier to study abroad?
JH: Living abroad in England definitely helped prepare me for this adventure! The school systems in Europe are quite different than those in the states, so that experience has helped as well this time around. Also, having the experience of living in another country made the choice to come out here less intimidating.
TCK: What were you most excited about before going abroad?
JH: I absolutely loved my year abroad in England and, therefore, couldn’t wait to live in another country again – this time for 2.5 years! I think it’s so important to truly experience other cultures, aside from just being a tourist and seeing the sights. There’s something very magical and timeless about living in another country. I remember that living in England was the first time I truly felt like an adult. So far, Italy has had the opposite effect in that I feel younger and more alive than I have in years.
TCK: What were you most afraid of before going?
JH: The scariest part about picking up my whole life and moving across the world was the idea that I wouldn’t know anyone where I was going. I had really only met my 13 other classmates through Facebook and some through Skype. Other than that, I knew no one!
TCK: Is the language barrier an issue for you?
JH: I admit that my Italian is not as good as it could be, but I manage to get by. We have an “Italian for Actors” course that gives us exposure to the language. Most of our classes are in English as we have professors from all over the world but some do speak Italian to us. The locals really appreciate when you try to speak Italian and are quite forgiving if you make mistakes so I never feel bad trying out my Italian!
“Allow yourself the opportunity to truly become part of the culture you’re in. Sightseeing is fun and full of memories but there’s also something wonderful about becoming a regular at your favorite coffee shop or making a tradition of visiting the farmer’s market every Saturday.”
TCK: How do you make rent? Do you have a job as well as schooling?
JH: Our class schedule is pretty rigorous so we can’t really work while we’re here. Thankfully, because the school is affiliated with an American university we are eligible for Financial Aid. I’m not sure how I’d be able to afford it otherwise!
TCK: What do you miss the most? What will you be most excited to have again once you’re back in the states?
JH: Aside from my family and friends, I really miss the little things. Really good peanut butter is not so easy to find here! My contact solution isn’t available here so I’ve had to change that. So, little things like that, really. And none of it is dire – just a matter of adapting to what’s available. I must admit, though, that I am really excited to go to Target and have a delicious iced coffee when I go back to California to visit in the summer!
TCK: How do you keep in touch with your family and friends?
JH: I use a lot of different social media apps to keep in touch with my family and friends. WhatsApp is really popular here in Europe so that’s been great to contact not only friends back home but also throughout Europe. Viber and GoogleHangouts have been the best ways to video chat with people. I also chat a lot through Facebook Messenger with people. The 9 hour time difference can be tough sometimes but we’ve been able to make it work so far!
TCK: What do you want to do after you graduate? Are you going to stay in Italy? Move back home? Somewhere else in Europe/abroad?
JH: As much as I miss home, I’d love to stay in Europe and find work out here. Italy is lovely and I could see myself staying here but I would be open to working in other countries as well. I see myself coming back to the states at some point but I’m not sure for how long. The type of work I see myself doing has much more opportunity out here than in the states. But I still have a year and a half to go, so who knows!?
“Do it! Go for it! It’s never too late!”
TCK: How do you think you’ve changed the most since you began your degree?
JH: I’ve been living in Italy for just over 6 months now and I’m amazed by how much it feels like home now. I no longer feel like a tourist in my town. I also feel more at home with myself – I feel like I have been allowed the unique opportunity to develop into the person I’m meant to be without restrictions. I grew quite complacent with the life I was living before moving here. Since then I feel like I’m peeling back layers and getting to the real core of who I am. I think a lot of that is related to the work I’m doing here but I also attribute it to being in a new place and allowing the little insecurities and fears to develop into opportunities to grow. I don’t see myself getting complacent here at all!