Student Spotlight: Devyn Passaretti

UnknownDevyn Passaretti ’16 is an illustration major from Rhode Island. She spent the Spring 2015 semester enrolled in the studio arts program at the SU Florence Center. She earned credit toward her major by taking studio courses at SU Florence facilities, along with history of art electives and Italian language. She also was able to take part in the all-school field trips that the SU Florence Center arranges each semester. If you’re considering a semester in Florence, check out her thoughts:

What was your most difficult experience abroad, and how did you overcome it?
The most difficult thing for me to overcome while studying abroad was being away from my friends and family for so long. Although I made lots of new friends while in Florence it was the first time that I was not in my comfort zone of being at school or at home. It was interesting to experience a new country with new people. While I was traveling I learned what my own priorities are, along with those of the people I traveled with. Throughout my time abroad I found great people to spend my time with and made older bonds with friends stronger.

What experiences were most helpful to your major?
My entire abroad experience was extremely helpful to my major. I got the opportunity to study fine art in one of the most artistically rich cities in the world. As an illustration major I was able to broaden my scope to fine art practices. By looking at the masters in contrast to contemporary Italian artists I learned a lot about conceptualization. Through this process of study I learned about myself as an artist. My skills of observation and experimentation were greatly improved. Overall the city of Florence and the act of traveling gave me endless inspiration, which broadened my perspective and artistic skills.

How were your living arrangements?
While in Florence I lived with a host family with another Syracuse student. I lived with a host mother, her mother, and their two cats. As soon as we arrived they welcomed us into their home and culture. Every night at the dinner table we would have mini Italian lessons to help with our vocabulary. At the dinner table we would brokenly communicate about our days, where we planned to travel, and laughed about cultural differences. I got used to eating about a pound of pasta as the first course alone. It was beautiful to have a real family environment. They were always so loving and helpful.

Would you like to study abroad again? Where would you want to go?
I would love to be able to study abroad again. It was such an inspiring time period in my life. There’s not a day that goes by that I do not reflect on my time in Florence. That being said I would study in Florence again if I had the choice. The ancient city has so much to offer and I feel as if I only scratched the surface. I’ve also always wanted to study in New Zealand because all of the breathtaking vistas.

If you want to explore Florence and see the things you’ve learned about in history books come to life before your eyes, start your application here! Have questions? Let us know!


Student Spotlight: Shaheem Valentin

shaheemvalentinShaheem Valentin ’16 is a dual accounting and marketing major from the Bronx. He spent Spring 2015 taking part in the SU Santiago program, which begins with a month of intensive Spanish language study in Ecuador. Once students wrap up their time in Ecuador, they embark on a two-week traveling Signature Seminar that takes them to Uruguay and Argentina. Shaheem loved his time in Latin America and recently answered some of our questions about his experience:

  1. What was your most memorable experience abroad?
    The most memorable experience was when a person, who would later become one of my best friends in Chile, invited me to go hiking after one day of meeting each other. I had to met this person at 9 a.m. at his house to meet up with his friends and also for us to drive to the hiking destination (Quebrada de Macul). I had an amazing time hiking with everyone, we laughed, we fell, and just overall had a good time. Later on, they invited me to come back to the house for a bbq and a little get-together. It was the first time that I was hanging out with so many Chileans, and funny enough they all become some of my closest friends during my time there (and still are).
  2. What was the biggest difference between what you thought the experience would be like and what it was actually like?
    At first, I was nervous about my Spanish, not making friends, and I guess every other common worry that people have when traveling to a new country. It seemed once I landed in Ecuador that all my fears dissipated and I threw caution to the wind. My Spanish wasn’t perfect but over time it improved dramatically, I learned how to converse and showcase my personality, which led to me making friends and acquaintances. Also, these countries are much more beautiful that I ever expected, in terms of scenery and the kindness of the people.
  3. What was your favorite part about study abroad?
    My favorite thing about study abroad is the freedom of it. There will not be another time in my life that I would act so carefree, and be so willing to try half of the things that I tried.
  4. How did you like your host families?
    My living arrangements in both Ecuador and Chile were wonderful. The families were amazing and completely generous. I had my own room, and the host families gave me the freedom to explore and do my own thing, while still having them as a “safety-net.”

If you want to travel to four countries, perfect your Spanish, and enroll in the SU Santiago program, start here. Have any questions for us? Let us know!

SU Abroad Student Profile: Connor Dunne


NAME: Connor Dunne



MAJOR: Spanish Language, Literature and Culture/ Education Studies minor


My most memorable experience abroad was taking my family around Madrid. They came and visited me during Spring Break, and I really loved showing them around the city that I really love. I took them to all my favorite sights, places and restaurants, and I really enjoyed when they came and saw me in Madrid


My favorite class abroad was Business Spanish (SPA 433). The professor, Cristina Perez, is amazing. I feel that I learned a lot in that class, but had fun doing it. The assignments that we did were fun as well, and I really liked my classmates too. It was the class I looked forward to all week.


I loved my living arrangement. My host mom, Ana, was wonderful. She was so nice, as well as her daughter, Ana and her granddaughter, Macarena. Ana was an amazing cook and made the best food. She also sat with my roommate and I for a while at dinner and just talked to us and that was really, really nice. It reminded me of home and I kind of felt like she was my grandma while I was abroad.


My favorite part of the city was by where I lived, near the Principe Pio metro stop. I lived in a less hectic part of the city, right near the Royal Palace and a huge cathedral, which was incredible to see everyday. I also lived right near el Río Manzanares and it was nice to go out for walk and walk down the river and take in the sights with everyone around you. It was also really accessible to rest of the city, so that was a plus.


I loved them! They were all so nice and generous and very, very helpful. There was one professor who I didn’t care for, but the rest of the professors I had, I loved and wish I could take more classes with them.

Be Our Guest! Living with a Host Family

Every morning, I wake up to the radio blasting French rock songs on the local classic station, Nostalgie. I hop out of bed, open the window and pop my head out for a moment. A strong chill pushes past me as I watch the neighborhood spring to life with truck drivers making produce deliveries and students sprinting to the tram station on their way to school. I can hear my host mom scurrying around the apartment as she gets ready for work. She manages a quick “Bonne journée!” before sprinting out the door. When I walk into the kitchen, several slices of bread from a fresh baguette are laid out for me on a plate along with some confiture (jam), half a kiwi, and a glass of juice. I make myself some espresso and take my time with my breakfast as I think about the day ahead – this is life with a host family.

The day the students of the Fall 2010 Strasbourg program were assigned their families, a mix of nerves and excitement filled the SU center. No one truly knew what to expect. Would they greet us with open arms? Would we feel at home immediately? What will be expected of us on a day-to-day basis?

Now that we have all been living life as Strasbourgeois for a month, we have the answers to all our questions. Jonell Yablonsky stated: “I love how my family is so willing to immerse me in their culture. They’re so helpful and [accommodating.]” Elin Wiklund had a similar feeling of welcome. “When she found out it was my birthday,” she says, “she baked me a cake and left me sunflowers in my room for me to find when I came home.”

When it comes to exploring the city, students have a great deal of freedom. Several students remarked that their host families encourage them to go out with friends or travel on the weekends. Devon Beebee explained that as long as she is home during dinner or in time to go for a quick grocery store trip in Germany with her host mom, she can spend her time the way she chooses. After all, our host families really want us to experience as much of our host city (country, even continent) as possible!

When dinnertime rolls around (in my home, that’s typically around eight), I am always eager to find out what my host mom is cooking up. I know one thing is certain – it will be fresh from the market. We sit and chat while we eat and sip Alsacian wine. She tells me about her day at work and I tell her what is going on at school or what trips I have planned. I was surprised to find out how quick I was able to get into a comfortable routine with a woman I have only known for a month. Though I am only here until December, I am happy to call this place my “home” for the time being.

-Adrienne Becker 
Student Blogger