Ciao ragazzi from Italy!

Ciao ragazzi (hi guys)! As cliché as it may sound to say, my study abroad experiences in Florence, Italy has genuinely been an absolutely life changing experience. From gaining the confidence to travel to new places, to learning how to speak a new language, to stepping outside my comfort zone, studying abroad has truly been one of the best decisions I have made to date! Aside from exploring and taking in Florence this semester, I have traveled to so many other incredible places within Italy, including the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, Lucca, Bologna, Rome, Venice, Verona, and so much more! By far, one of my favorite places I have visited was this cute small town within the Tuscany region of Italy called Montepulciano- it was a beautiful hilltop town with delicious food, and some of the nicest people I have ever met! I also took a solo trip to Sicily in October during my school’s fall break, where I had the chance to “find myself” so to speak, gain so much independence and confidence in my abilities to do things on my own, and the opportunity to meet family I had never met before! Outside of Italy, I have also traveled to Paris, Barcelona, and Dublin, and I have one more trip outside of the country to Interlaken, Switzerland planned for this upcoming weekend!

One thing that I have learned from studying abroad that is so valuable is that you only live once, and that life is short, so you should always take every opportunity to experience something new that you can, even if it means making some sacrifices along the way! Do I have days where I miss home or want to hop on the next plane back to the US? Absolutely! But being away from my loved ones is a sacrifice I made to experience so many different places and cultures, and that is completely normal and all apart of the study abroad process; in fact, I’d even argue that it’s somewhat healthy to miss home. Without missing home, you can’t grow or make comparisons between the culture you are so used to, and the new culture you are being immersed in! Plus, whenever you are feeling homesick, your family and friends are only a phone call, video chat, or social media post away- and remember, study abroad only lasts a few months – one year depending on what program you select- think of what a small portion of your life that is in comparison to your whole life that you still have ahead of you! In other words, yes, it can be difficult to be away from loved ones while studying abroad, but it is only temporary and the people that care will always keep in touch, and there’s so many ways to keep everyone at home in the loop, from blogging, social media posts, and online photo albums! Personally, I have been utilizing Google Photos to document my study abroad journey thus far. If you are interested in keeping up to speed with my latest adventures, you can look through my Study Abroad Google Photos album at this link:


So, my advice to you? STUDY ABROAD! You will NOT regret it!

Thanks for reading everyone!


Best Regards,

Marisa Bonamassa-Cimino  ’18 (December)

Wales: Thatcher and the Coal Miners

From October 13-14th, I traveled to Wales where I explored many historical sites such as Tintern Abbey, Caerphilly Castle, and one of the last Welsh coal mines. I was part of a tour that was able to descend about ninety meters underground into the mines. We had to wear a helmet with a light on the top, like you would see in a movie, as well as an oxygen mask in case the chemical levels rose too high while we were down there. The mines and their inner workings, when they were open, was described by a former miner. The miner gave us a history of the mine and subjects ranging from the horses that were transported and lived underground to the children who were employed to open and close oxygen shielding doors.

One major piece of history not mentioned by the miner was Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher was the conservative Prime Minister for the UK from 1979-1990. Not only the first female prime minister in the UK, but a stark believer in conservative spending policies with economic aims: the control of inflation, mass privatization of state-owned industries, reduction of direct taxes with the increase in indirect taxes, and to limit the power of the unions. In the early 1980’s, the cost of paying the miners far outpaced the output of the mines. The Coal Authority released a graph detailing the fall in output with an extreme rise in employees. (See graph)

If the number of miners was to be taken out of the graph, one would see that the output was still gradually decreasing over the years with no large spikes in productivity. This was largely due to the “easy to reach” coal being used up and the process of getting the coal that was deeper underground was both more difficult and dangerous. Margaret Thatcher saw these falling numbers and, in order to decrease the massive deficit, ordered that a majority of the mines would be shut down.

Naturally, the miners, although aware of the failing and weakening of the industry, led by Arthur Scargill, pushed for a massive, nationwide strike. As leader of one of the coal unions, he decided to call for and thereby order a strike which, according to the policies of the miners, was against the rules. Nevertheless, the miners agreed, and a strike was carried out. Mrs. Thatcher was ready for the strike and, in anticipation, had stockpiled mass amounts of coal. The strikes lasted for a year until the unions conceded and Mrs. Thatcher was victorious. Her government used several methods to close the mines (i.e. pouring cement, using explosives to cause a collapse, etc.)

As a historian, I found this trip to be a fantastic learning experience. I was so lucky to have been able to go into the mines and see what the workers faced day in and day out. I went in knowing only Mrs. Thatcher’s arguments but came out with a stark contrast as I heard the perspective of the miners. I must say that, in the end, I do agree with Mrs. Thatcher’s decision as it made sense, but I would not have been able to come to this decision had I not visited and learned from the mines. My trip to Wales and my descent into the mines was one that I will never forget and one that I will teach my future students!

-Danny Ginchereau


Greetings & Tips from London

Greetings from across the pond!!

My name is Sarah Cook and I am studying abroad in London at St. Mary’s University this semester with one of my best friends, Danny Ginchereau!

Time has absolutely flown by — I can’t believe that we are a little more than half way done with the semester here. The entire study abroad experience thus far has been incredible. I am so glad that I seized the opportunity to go abroad before I graduate in the spring!

Here are some tips/suggestions/initial thoughts that I’ve come up with if you’re thinking about going abroad during your college career:

  • Don’t be afraid to be a tourist!!! Go to as many tourist spots as you can and don’t be afraid to take pictures. You’ll have plenty of time to explore the less touristy spots and find the hidden gems that your city/country has to offer.
  • Travel as much as you can! Plan ahead and rank the countries that you want to visit. Chances are you won’t be able to hit every country on your list (I certainly won’t) but by ranking your top countries/cities, you will have an easier time planning trips and making sure that your most anticipated travel locations become an actuality. Plan your top place first!
  • If you’re studying abroad in England, try to find a flight that doesn’t have a layover in Ireland (trust me, you’ll save yourself from a headache going through customs).
  • Try to find a close group of friends! As obvious as this sounds, this is super important! I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the group of friends I made. It’s essential to have people to travel with, go to dinner with, explore with, and just hang out with. It makes missing home a lot easier if you surround yourself with people who are in a similar situation as you.
  • Classes here (at least at my university) are a lot easier with a significantly smaller work load than back at GCU. So if you think you won’t have time to explore and travel because of school work, trust me you will!
  • Step outside of your comfort zone!! Going abroad is an opportunity to do things that you normally wouldn’t be able to do! Try the different traditional foods that your country has to offer. Embrace the new and different culture that you are immersed in!!

That’s it for now!! I’ll keep you all posted!!

Sarah 🙂