La Bella Figura

The dreaded “Freshman 15” was something I’m sure everyone worried about, to some extent, upon entering the collegiate world.  But have you ever thought about the “Foreign 15?” Studying abroad here at DU is a fantastic opportunity that most college students do not receive.  We are given the chance to see the world in a whole new context, which includes expanding our minds, and unfortunately, sometimes our waistlines.  Most study abroad locales are exciting for their foreign cultures, but also for their specialized cuisines.

Studying in Rome, Italy, for a year, was an art historical/gastronomical dream come true!  But it also was the chance to really view myself in whole new context.  An extended period of time abroad forces you to learn a lot of things about yourself, and also unearth parts that you never knew existed before. Being immersed in an unknown culture, and having to adjust your daily routines to match newer, stranger ones is a challenge, and changing your eating and lifestyle habits are the hardest.  I had to adjust from working out every single day to sometimes making it to the little local gym I joined 3 times a week.  Along with working out less, the abundance and deliciousness of Mediterranean meals broke any sort of diet I ever had. These unbalanced changes led to the transformation of my body, which at first I viewed in a negative way.

But as time wore on, I began to have more of a local’s lifestyle, rather than one of an excited, hungry, American girl.  I began to view my changing body as my Bella Figura, which translates from Italian as having a beautiful figure. More then just outward appearance, this idea also incorporates the notions of how you carry yourself, and how you present yourself in public situations. Basically, I knew that I had the confidence and poise to walk proudly and confidently into almost any situation, and I began to view the few pounds that I had gained as a marker of how much I had truly experienced and enjoyed one of the largest aspects of Italian culture. My Bella Figura revealed itself to me through my gradual acceptance of how different my world had become.  Embrace the change! And wherever you are, you will find your Bella Figura as well.

– Jillian Neilson, DUSA Peer Advisor


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