Humans of UK: Nicole Darland finds a new home in America


Nicole Darland poses for a photo on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Hannah Stanley

Sophomore Nicole Darland has lived her childhood traveling back and forth from the United States and the town of Vicenza, Italy, residing for the past two years in Lexington, Kentucky. 

Darland, a kinesiology major on the physical therapy track, was born and raised in Washington, later moving to Georgia. When she was eight years old and her brother was four, her family moved back to Vicenza. Not only was Vicenza her mother’s hometown, but it was also where her parents met.

When recalling her parents’ first interaction, Darland described it as “a Hallmark movie.” They first encountered each other at a carnival in Vicenza while Darland’s father was active in the U.S. military and deployed to Italy. Darland’s mother approached him, but she was interrupted before they could get to know each other. However, they would later reunite at a local club.

“Later on that week, my mom goes to the club, and, lo and behold, my dad is there,” Darland said. “My dad approaches my mom and talks in the most terrible, terrible Italian, and asks my mom if she wants to dance. So they did, and that’s how they met.”

Darland holds her parents’ story close to her heart, as it connects her to her family in Italy while she attends school in America. Darland never planned to attend UK and said she “applied as a joke.” 

Now, Darland is in her second year at the university. 

“I kind of wanted to experience what it was like going to school in America,” she said. “It was a really different experience growing up in a military-based school because we weren’t really Americanized. We were more on the European side.”

The Department of Defense Education Activity school that Darland attended focused heavily on academics, due to it being a Blue Ribbon School, and was specialized for students who had parents in the military or that were overseas.

There were aspects of sports involved, as well with three sport seasons to participate in, although the travelling aspect was a little different in comparison to most American high school sports.

“We had to drive like eight hours because my school was not one of the highly paid ones, so we would have to drive a majority of the time,” said Darland. “We weren’t allowed to go on plane rides like the other schools were able to.”

Yet another major difference that Darland experienced was driving. In Italy, the age limit is 18 rather than 16 in the U.S., so driving to and from school was also something that caught her by surprise, as well as school parking spots.

“The most exciting part was when I heard someone say, ‘Yeah, we have these things where we decorated our own parking spaces,’ and I was like, ‘Wait, you have parking spaces?’” Darland said. “We can’t drive until we’re 18. I just got my license.” 

Although there are many differences between her Italian home life and American school life, Darland has found comfort in her time at UK.

“What made me feel most at home at UK is actually probably the people I’ve met throughout the two years I’ve been here,” Darland said. “I feel like by creating a bond with others, I feel like I have another family, even though I’m not with mine.”