Happenstance Leads Student to Incredible Abroad Experience

AUBURN – Auburn student Taylor Humm's Auburn abroad experience was the result of a couple of chance happenings.

Whether it happened by coincidence or fate, she likely would not change the experience for anything.

Humm is a senior from Fort Worth, Texas, majoring in radio, television and film. She likely would not have found Auburn without her older brother deciding to take a chance himself.

"He came to Auburn just on a whim," Humm explained. "I just visited one time and fell in love with it. I decided I needed to get out of the big Texas schools and try something different. I'm certainly glad that I did."

Her second fortuitous moment occurred during what was at the time a frustrating circumstance. Humm grew up taking Spanish classes in Texas but was having a difficult time getting in the popular Spanish classes at Auburn for her necessary foreign language credit. She decided to give Italian a try instead.

"I thought, 'It's a little bit similar.' So I took Italian for two semesters and then learned about an opportunity to go abroad to Italy and earn my Italian minor, so I couldn't pass it up," Humm said.

She traveled to the town of Taormina in Sicily (the island at the toe of the boot that forms the mainland of Italy) and stayed four weeks in the summer of 2011.

"It was my first time abroad," Humm said. "It was quite a way to do it. I was definitely nervous. I thought I knew a lot more Italian than I actually did. The language was certainly a barrier. I didn't know anyone going on my program with me, though it made me feel a little bit more comfortable knowing they were all going to be Auburn students.

"It was definitely a culture shock in the best way. It ended up being the best thing I could have done with my college experience. The experiences I had and the friends that I made and the things that I learned abroad just can't compare to anything I've done in the United States."

At Taormina Humm took language classes from professors who spoke no English in addition to a cooking class where the instructor also spoke no English and an Italian culture class. "I ended up learning more Italian in those four weeks than I had in two semesters at Auburn," Humm said.

Days when she was out of class allowed Humm to travel all around the island including the cities of Syracuse and Agrigento. She and her abroad cohort also got to know Taormina itself intimately.

Humm said, "It was on the coast, so it was a beach town. It was very small and very locally-oriented. We were there for a month, and the locals really got to know us and know our names and said hi to us on the streets and helped us with our Italian when they noticed we were struggling.

"It was just a very friendly atmosphere. It was not what I expected Italy to be like, but it was so much better than I expected."

She returned home a changed and more confident person with enough academic credits to receive a minor in Italian at her approaching graduation.

"It definitely made me more independent and made me realize that I was able to step outside my comfort zone and succeed in an environment I was completely uncomfortable with," Humm said. "And it showed me that, although it's sometimes hard to realize here at Auburn, there is literally an entire world out there with completely different cultures and attitudes."

As Humm prepares to leave Auburn, she might be heading back out into that big, diverse world.

"I'm applying for jobs and a lot of them have been in Italy. It would be an excellent place to end up," she said.

Life's coincidences usually has a way of leading people to where they are meant to be, even if that place happens to be on the other side of the world.

Last Updated: April 11, 2013

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