Today, we are interviewing Francesco Tollini, a graduate student from Italy, who studied at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
What made you decide to study abroad, and why did you choose Dartmouth?
I have two older sisters who went to study abroad. One went to study Art and History in France, the other went to Germany to study Politics. It was more or less expected of me to study abroad. To be honest, I wanted to stay in Italy and study in Rome. I’m not much of a traveler and I just love Italy. But then I thought, if I’m going to study abroad, then I want to go far away, further than Europe. I wanted to graduate from a top school and I really liked the fact that Dartmouth was surrounded by amazing nature. I grew up in the city, so I wanted to see what the “country side” was like.
What was the best thing about studying at Dartmouth?
When I first arrived at Dartmouth, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, living so far up North. I had only seen snow a couple of times before. The short days and the freezing cold made it pretty hard for me to cope. Then, one day in the first winter I was there, a few of my room mates asked me to go skiing with them. I told them that I didn’t know how to but they told me they would teach me, so I had no choice.
The first time I was standing at the top of the mountain, I was pretty scared. It looks so much scarier and higher and steeper when you are standing at the top. My friends briefly explained to me what I had to do with my feet and body, and then just said: “Follow me!” So I did…. I fell a ton that day and I thought I had already lost interest. But my friends encouraged me to keep trying, so we went back the next day, and the day after. We would go skiing almost every day for 2 months, and by the end of that time, skiing became one of my biggest passions. I now go skiing at least twice per year in Italy.
Did you experience culture shock? If so, how did you deal with it?
Absolutely. Everything is different in America. I missed my coffee, good Italian food, and the sun. And even though it was all fun and new in the beginning, I quickly made friends with my roommates and loved how Dartmouth challenged me. But when I skyped with my friends from home, I did get a little homesick. They were spending their weekends at the beach, telling me fun stories, while I was wrapped up in a heating blanket. Lucky enough, I got to go home at least twice a year and spend most of the summers at home.
The way I coped with the culture shock though is that I kept on telling myself that “I wanted a BIG change”, and I got what I wanted. And I reminded myself that I did have a good time after all. I had made friends, I was doing well at school, and eventually settled in (for the time being). I knew I was only going to stay here for four years and the campus life was pretty cool. I had learned how to ski and made it my new passion. That helped a lot
Do you have any tips for other international student?
My biggest advice would be to find something that you love and do it. A hobby, a sport, an instrument. In my case, I learned something new, skiing. It was hard at first, but when I got better at it, I enjoyed it a lot and it became “my thing”. I went over to the slopes, sometimes really early in the morning and it just made such a difference. I was doing something I never thought of doing in Italy. I replaced sad thoughts with a new sport. Don’t be shy, be adventurous, and find your new passion!