The word “unique” is all too often misused in general conversation; we find ourselves talking about something that’s kind of unique, or very unique. The fact of the matter is, as any anal compulsive English professor will tell you, that something is unique or it is not. And whether you like it or not, the Georgetown experience is nothing if not “unique.” And among the experiences that make up that very personal “Georgetown Experience” is the possibility of studying abroad with a Georgetown program at the Villa Le Balze. Every year around 50 students fly to the hills outside Florence, Italy to live in a multi-million dollar Villa where they attend classes, eat the food of two private chefs and travel all over Italy on three-day weekends. Of those incredibly lucky 50, about 20 have returned from the fall semester to tell their tales; you might recognize them from the Italian sweaters, sudden use of words like “ciao” and their mixture of happiness and nostalgia.

Having been to the Villa myself last year, I took it upon myself to find out how their semester was, purely to see if they liked it. Ok, that’s a lie; I secretly wanted to see if their experience was as amazing as mine had been last year, or if somehow my year was some random fluke where everyone got along and had an amazing time. Apparently the answer is that this was no fluke; everyone I spoke with said that they had a fantastic time, that they met a bunch of cool people and a few even said that “it was the best thing I did at Georgetown.” They also kept using the word unique, but in its correct meaning; they never described the Villa as sort of unique, but entirely unique.

When I asked why, the answers I got were varied. Linh Hoang said, “the opportunity to be away from the U.S. and Georgetown was unique because you are in a different country, a different cultural environment and being exposed to Florence’s rich history . it’s overwhelming and makes you appreciate Georgetown so much when you come back.” Hoya Staff Writer Randa Munayyer saw the Villa differently: “The Villa is unique because you do everything with a small group of people . everyone was so different and such an individual, with so many different personalities. But somehow we all got along . so many people became friends that would never have been friends back at Georgetown, and you get to bring these friends back with you.” It seems that everyone who has ever gone to the Villa echoes these sentiments; everyone emphasizes something different but they all return to the sense of community life that permeates the experience.

What people seem to remember is not the big stuff, like the Coliseum or Michelangelo’s David. Rather, what I heard from people were like anecdotes from between the lines of the tourist books . like getting hopelessly lost in Venice as the water was rising, or just sitting watching the sunsets with a glass of wine, or always feeling full after the massive lunches. Everyone has a story about how he or she messed up the language: telling host mothers that you like dog instead of meat, or fish tea instead of peach tea. It’s so idyllic and heart warming that everyone seems to preface what he says with “I know this sounds corny, but.”

Everyone has a different story, and everyone feels differently, but I have yet to meet anyone who can honestly say that they had a bad time. And even if they did, it’s hard to listen to someone who lived in a Tuscan Villa for three months complain.

Graham Steele is a senior in the College.

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