Erin Lanz is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Rome and Greece
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
The cultural experience that had the greatest lasting impression on me was my weekend trip to Istanbul, Turkey. About half of my group ended up in the same hostel on the same weekend in this unique new place. I enjoyed the opportunity to hear the prayer to call, which had previously been such a foreign concept to me, and the unforgettable food (that was a needed break from the plain traditional Greek food). I took the leap and tried out an authentic Turkish bath with two other girls from my trip... and let's just say it has bonded us for life. I experienced a culture with a different currency (if you didn't like the price you got to cut it in half- exchange rate), an environment where few women were out in the streets and the amazing Grand Bazaar and spice market. It was a weekend filled with so many moments that will be with me forever!
Why did you choose the program in which you participated?
In deciding to attend St. Ben's I knew that I would incorporate a study abroad experience into my college career. So I started from day one planning to save my Humanities, Upper Theology and Arts requirements because there weren't programs where I could take accounting classes. In the process of specifically choosing of the Roman Greco program I had a bit more difficulty. I have always wanted to visit Italy, enticed by the delicious food and easygoing culture, and I liked the fact that I would be in Europe having the ease of travel to many other countries. While abroad I visited nine new countries, including my two host countries on two new continents. While I was lucky enough to have the time and resources to travel to so many new places I would advise others to focus on the individual culture for a longer period of time over attempting to reach a magic number.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
This experience was more than just a vacation. It gave me the opportunity to truly immerse myself into new cultures and environments. I became a local in my two host countries and found myself getting annoyed with the flocks of tourists everywhere. I have met 29 new Bennies and Johnnies that I now consider my family. Academically, I studied subjects outside my typical accounting classes and was able to take what I was learning in the classroom and experience it walking down the streets of Athens and Rome.
Overall this experience is one that is difficult to sum up in a few words, so my suggestion is fill out an application, get on a plane and dive right in... You won't regret it.
How has the trip affected you? How are you different for having completed the experience?
This trip taught me a lot about myself and helped me to grow as a person. Since being back I have begun to finally notice some of these things. People always told me I would be a different person when I returned, and I would joke back not really feeling like this experience could have such an impact on me. It still hasn't all sunk in, but as the days pass since my safe return to the US I am starting to see the positive changes that have occurred while away. I am opening up more to friends, family members and strangers, not afraid of what others will think. I have gained a confidence that I was previously lacking, stepping up to new and exciting challenges. When you get lost or are in an unknown land restricted by the language barrier you learn how to problem solve. I now know I can really do ANYTHING! And with that confidence I am finding my voice and speaking my mind. Fear of the unknown is no longer holding me back. You can chose to let this experience change you for the better, besides the tighter fitting clothing and the diminished bank account; this trip truly is the best experience ever.
What advice do you have for future Study Abroad Students?
Step out of your comfort zone. Get lost. Take train to a new country. Try something new. Pack light. Keep a journal. Keep in touch with family and friends back home. Create a unique, individual experience. Pack light. Max out your passport. Practice a new language. Create a budget and stick to it. Make a new friend (or 29). PACK LIGHT. Take too many pictures. Try the traditional cuisine. Become a local. OH YEAH... and have FUN!