I feel a sense of déjà vu as I prepare to board this Boeing-787. It’s hard to believe that this time last year I was surrounded by 300 seats much like I am today. Except then, I was sitting in ISA with my laptop propped against the seat next to me, brainstorming all the ways I could finish two degrees in four years, when I stumbled upon USF’s Education Abroad portal. My ears were lent to a (riveting) lecture on stereoisomers but my eyes scrolled through an assortment of country brochures until I found two titles that assuredly held the answers to my quandary: USF Dance in Paris and USF Science in Florence.
My name is Madison McGrew, I’m a rising senior and I’m pursing dual degrees in Dance Performance and Biomedical Sciences. I wish to forge a path in the field of dance medicine, and for that purpose I do not believe there could be a more fitting experience for me than a summer abroad studying in the two cities where dance and medicine first coalesced.
(In fact, while many people regard France or Russia as the birthplace of ballet, it actually received its humble beginnings in Florence, Italy. Catherine de Medici of the Medici family—virtual sovereigns in Florence from the 14th to 18th centuries—loved dance, art, and fashion so much that she could not bear to part with it when she was married off to King Henry II of France. Once she arrived in Paris, with her culture in tow, she saw the potential of the city to be the future cradle of Western civilization. From then on, she was not only a patron of the arts but she was a political activist, often using ballet as means for partisan intervention, allying, and commerce.)
By tracing history in this way, I couldn’t possibly imagine doing one program without the other. And I’m so fortunate that I get to do both! Of course, there are several other reasons why I chose to double dip this summer. But I think the best of those reasons are summed in my following “Somewhat Atypical Study Abroad Bucket List”:
- Gawk at the “Lady and the Unicorn” tapestries that flank the walls of the Musée Nationale du Moyen-Age/Musée de Cluny. I mean, they have only been the subject of my research for the past three years.
- Brave an early morning wakeup call and climb to the top of the Sacré Cœur to watch as the sun peers over the Tour Eiffel and ignites the City of Light.
- Eat cake in the gardens at the Chateau de Versailles, because Marie Antoinette told me to.
- Attach my heart’s desire to a shiny coin, turn around, and toss it backward into the Trevi Fountain…and then have that desire be realized as a pop star named Paolo approaches me, falls madly in love with me, and asks me to impersonate his female counterpart and my unlikely doppelganger, Isabella. “Awkward study abroad student turned international pop sensation” will definitely make for a promising blog post.
- Turn 21 and get lost in the foothills of Tuscany with a bottle of wine.
- Reach up and touch the hand of God, so delicately placed on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by the hand of Michelangelo.
- Be serenaded by the calming canals of Venice from the seat of a lovingly legato gondola as the world’s most enchanting marbled architecture glides by.
- Hold up the Torre di Pisa with something apart from my hands, because I’m a dance major and I can be more creative than that.
- Drink an embarrassing amount of cafés and caffés EVERYWHERE.
While I’m sure my list will grow exponentially by the time I touch down in Norway (hello, layover), I think it would be wise to stop typing now. I don’t think I’m excited, anxious, nervous, giddy, or any other emotion by name. Rather, I’m experiencing that feeling you feel when you are about to embark on an adventure that you know will change your life forever—you don’t know in what ways or how much, you just know that when you return, the geography will be the same but you will not.
Au revoir and arrivederci,