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Study Abroad in Italy, Despite Health and Money Hardships

Angela in Verona, Italy!
Angela in Verona, Italy! Angela was a student in the first class I ever taught as an official Boston Public Schools teacher, seven years ago. She was a senior in high school and I was 21 years old… not much older than her!

Since that year when she impressed me so much as a 12th grader, Angela has gone on to do remarkable things, despite financial hardship, being mugged, a car crash, and other adversities that would make so many others give up. Listen up to the remarkable story of Angela Ivana Greene, and learn how it IS possible to make your travel dreams a reality.

Angela, please tell us about your background.

Angela: In college, I majored in Philosophy and “Law and Ethics.” I spent a month in Italy studying photography, but it was a looong journey to get there! Let me explain.

I was always an honors student and attended the exam school called Boston Latin Academy during middle school and some of high school. I was also always highly creative individual. So, boredom kicked in while I studied the classical education BLA had to offer. I got to a point where I started skipping school a lot and decided I’d only show up to take my test and collect my bus passes each month!

Angela and friends in a gondola in Venice, Italy.
Angela and friends in a gondola in Venice, Italy.

I know it’s terrible, but I was misguided and did what I could get away with. Some budget cuts were made to programs I was involved in and I lost my desire to attend to school. I knew school wasn’t all about fun and games, but I felt that I needed something additional to motivate me each day!

With great disapproval from my friends and family, I transferred to a “regular” Boston Public School. I was in 10th grade and had realized my had GPA dropped to a whopping 1.19. I transferred to Charlestown High because they had the best MCAS scores next to the exam schools, and I was intrigued by their Business and Entrepreneurship Pathway. They reeled me in by telling me I could get paid to go to school. I was sold!

At Charlestown High, I struggled with the strict rules and constant routines, as well as smaller class sizes. After some time, I adjusted well. I joined the Cheerleading and Track teams. I even ended up becoming captain of my cheerleading team and also discovered the school dark room! I became passionate about photography and would spend hours developing my photos in the darkroom. Then, I became a participant in the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, where I thrived!

Wall of Love Letters (for Juliet!) in Vernoa, Italy.
Wall of Love Letters (for Juliet!) in Vernoa, Italy.

I was given the opportunity to start my own business in the 11th grade and I gained a lot of recognition for it. I was now waking up on time and excited to be in school EVERY DAY! I started a catering business called “El BluMabi” and had a few partnerships that failed. Nonetheless, our business placed first in a various business competitions in Boston and New York City over the course of a few years. I was also featured on the front page of the Boston Business Journal my last year in high school.

From that point on, I was constantly asked to speak at a variety of entrepreneurship events. I graduated high school in the National Honor Society with a 3.41 GPA and attended Northeastern University on an academic scholarship. With my business I made enough money to buy my first car in college. I stopped accepting catering jobs during my second year in college to focus on school.

College was tough for me because my family wasn’t as supportive and present in the process as the “average American family” would be. So, I had to work a lot while attending college to pay the tuition. Feeling like I was missing out on “college life,” I decided I would study abroad one semester. I had some MAJOR setbacks getting there, but I NEVER gave up my hope of leaving the country!

A beautiful scene in Venice, Italy.
A beautiful scene in Venice, Italy.

See, I ended up in the Emergency room three times during my college career and had to take a few medical leaves of absences. With my first incident, I ended up with 15 stitches and a scar above my right eyebrow from being mugged. The second medical leave was due to a car accident.

Looking back at it I am able to laugh because it was around Christmas time and I had lost my two front teeth in the car accident. I was probably the only college student who could truthfully sing, “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth!” Lastly, in the midst of my finals during senior year, and ONLY two weeks short of me boarding my flight to Italy for my study abroad program, I accidentally sliced open my dominant hand while cooking and had to get surgery due to a torn tendon!

I took time off to recover and regroup. While I was supposed to be in bed resting, I was determined to finish school and go to Italy! So, as opposed to returning to school the next semester, I postponed my education for a year. With a cast on my dominant hand I obtained two jobs and worked hard to pay my medical bills and to save enough money. During that time, I prepared for my study abroad, finished my finals over the course of the year, and awaited my college graduation.

"Love Locks" in Verona, Italy.
“Love Locks” in Verona, Italy.

A whole year later, the morning of my graduation, my flight was scheduled to leave for Italy. So, I missed my college graduation to board my flight. I joked with my family that I’d turn my tassel upon landing in the Venice Airport! It was a grand experience and through it all, as originally planned back in 2005, I still received my degree with Northeastern University’s class of 2010!

TT: Amazing. Please explain how you were able to find, arrange, and pay for your study abroad program.

A: My school had an office on campus dedicated to promoting various study abroad programs. I looked through the opportunities, took Italian Language course one semester and determined I would go to Italy.

To afford it, initially I worked evenings while in college to save up. After my accident, I took a year off from school and worked two jobs. For about 5 months I worked 9-5 and then 6-11pm. Then I started applying for any job that paid well. I even applied for jobs that weren’t within my experience level.

I got a part-time job teaching computers that paid $20 an hour and still kept my evening job from 6-11pm. I made sure my bills were paid, went out less, stopped shopping (the hardest part! Lol!) and saved money to study abroad. I even had enough money afterwards to plan a vacation in LONDON. I went there for one week that summer after returning from Italy.

TT: So impressive. Can you describe an overview of your study abroad program in Italy?

Johnny Depp in Italy!
When Angela ran into Johnny Depp in Italy!

A: My study abroad program taught digital photography and Art History in Venice, Italy. People think art programs are easy. It’s actually intense, but also very rewarding work. Each day we learned something new about photography and were sent around Venice to complete random photography projects.

We also traveled to different sites in Venice to study the architecture, learn the area history, and even study and discuss some great paintings in the old churches and museums of Venice.

TT: Explain a few of the most powerful, interesting, or funny moments of your time abroad!

A: My most powerful moment is tough! It was between discovering the Chinese Restaurant in Venice and getting my passport stamped when we changed flights in Switzerland! Lol. The Chinese food discovery was powerful because when you’re eating pasta, pizza, and various Italian cold cuts for 20 days… then you discover something new? You have a moment of power!

The passport stamp was my moment of realization that I was really living the good life and traveling! It was a defining moment, because I realized that I was a senior, it was my last semester, and I had missed my graduation with good reason!

Best moment? I got lost trying to meet up with my classmates for Art History because St. Mark’s Square was over-crowded with tourists that day. I ended up discovering Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie were filming in Venice for the movie, “The Tourist.” I had my camera and got some cool shots of Johnny Depp on set!

Interesting moment? We discovered a blow-up doll in a random place. So, I went to Verona Italy, the setting for Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” It’s a very majestical and romantic part of Italy. There’s still this little girl inside of me, so to know such a romantic place exists was interesting and exciting to me. I got a chance to visit a castle and see Romeo and Juliet’s houses.

There was also this incredible wall of love notes from people all over the world. As we were walking through these romantic streets, we came across a car with a blow-up doll in the front seat! The funny part is two little boys walked by and the youngest one noticed the blowup doll. He did a double take, tugged on his brother’s arm and dragged him over to the car to look at the naked doll. I caught them on camera giggling and skipping along in excitement!

Italian boys giggle after seeing the blow-up doll.
Italian boys giggle after seeing the blow-up doll.

Funniest moment? We would go out at night to the center of the area we stayed in, what they call “Campos”, where’s there are tons of bars and great people. We got a chance to chat with some local students and be entertained. A group of us went out one night and we were talking to some students.

Some of the students were Italian, others were students from Germany. There was this one girl from my school, she had blonde hair, was soft spoken but really funny and very beautiful. She was a California girl! One of the guys we met looked at her and in the weirdest accent he told her she looked like George Bush’s wife!

Then he told her that “she-a-look-a-like-a-monkey.” We all fell out our seats in tears and laughter. It was like a lost in translation, Orbit Commercial moment. He was trying to give her a compliment but it came out totally wrong!

TT: Love it! How has traveling changed you as a person?

A: I just appreciate life so much more! I now truly know and understand the concept of having no boundaries or limitations in life. I think traveling also gave me a heightened sense of what my freedom means to me.

People have told me the sky is the limit before, but after working so hard and after experiencing so much negativity, one can become disillusioned. So, traveling really allowed me to grasp the concept that I really can do ANYTHING I put my mind to despite my circumstances. As cliché as it sounds, “it’s not where you’re at but where you want to be.” I really wanted to be in Italy as I dreamed for many years, and I got there!

Traveling helped me realize that experiences are more valuable than all the materials things I had to give up to get there! The world is so big and there’s so much to discover! So, if I had to give up another 20 pairs of shoes, miss my graduation, and put a hold on making money in order to travel and experience life in a new way? I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

Angela's photo of Johnny Depp in Italy, filming "The Tourist."
Angela’s photo of Johnny Depp in Venice, filming “The Tourist.”

TT: So well-said! What advice do have for people who dream of travel, especially if they think they don’t have money, time, or ability to do so?

A: DO NOT QUIT. In every area of life, there’s always a loop-hole someplace. There’s always an unlocked door that can be PUSHED open, leading to an opportunity to get what you want. If one route doesn’t work, take a detour and get to where you want to go! There are programs outside of college that will pay for your travel and there are special travel deals going on every day. You can even do a payment plan with some travel agencies!

I like to say, “Not every cookie was made with a cookie cutter.” So, don’t think you have to always do things by the book. Try things a different way, and you just might end up on top!

TT: Angela, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and your experiences with us! Readers, if you want more, I highly recommend you check out Angela’s very professional website, Now, what comments or questions do you have for this awesome young woman?


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Elizabeth T Nagarajah

Wednesday 2nd of April 2014

Angela, If you don't know how proud I am of you I will say it again - I am so PROUD of the woman you have become and that despite the many obstacles the devil put in your way you allowed your faith and perseverance to guide you through to reach high. Continue to reach for the sky and allow God to guide your path. You are truly an inspiration to many and I know you will continue to be!! Love you so much Sister Nagarajah

donna morang

Saturday 21st of July 2012

Angela, you are one amazing and inspiring young woman. I hope to someday have the privilege of meeting you.

Angela Ivana Greene

Wednesday 7th of November 2012

Hi Donna! It would be a pleasure to meet you one day! I'm humbled that I could inspire someone with my story. Take care!

Angela P

Friday 30th of September 2011

Perseverance, passion, pursuit, and triumph! I love your story!! It serves as a true testimony to overcoming struggles and living your best life. Also, it is inspirational and should serve as an example & reminder that all things are possible. Continued blessings to you!

BTW - Love the photos of Italy!

~Angela P.

Angela Ivana Greene

Wednesday 7th of November 2012

Thank you for reading Angela! I'm glad you enjoyed my testimony and photos! Blessings and success to you as well!

Genesis Lumahan

Tuesday 3rd of May 2011

I've always wanted to go to Venice. The gondolas look so cool! This story seems so inspiring. From a horrible GPA to getting your life back together...amazing! I watched "The Tourist" and now I'm so jealous of how you got to see Angelina and Johnny. Great story!

Angela Ivana

Tuesday 3rd of May 2011

Yes, the Gondolas are cool...I'll never forget my Gondolier "Sabastiano"! He was quite the character! I hate to admit it but I'm still waiting to see the movie! Thank you for reading & I hope you make it to Venice soon!

Azalia Clark

Monday 2nd of May 2011

Angela, I am so very proud and amazed at your accomplishments and astonished by this wonderful article. As I'm sure you know, whenever we have Big plans, the Universe gives us Big obstacles to overcome. Please always let your love for life which is an expression of art in energy form be your guide and the creative sustainance for your endeavors. I am always watching you and admiring from a distance, cousin.

Angela Ivana

Tuesday 3rd of May 2011

Thank you for the reminder, encouragement and love! :) I love you & miss you!

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