Laura Hey is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Greece and Italy.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
We got to know a guy and a girl our age in Athens, and the guy invited my roommates and I over to his house for lunch cooked by his parents. They acted just like one would think a Greek family would. The parents couldn't speak any English, so it was so fun to try and communicate differently (even though the son did his part at interpreting). Whenever we would eat something off of our plates, the mother would immediately scoop some more onto our plates, no matter how many times we said we were full. Also, whenever the son would mouth off to the father, he would smack him on the head playfully. We really got to experience Greek food and family that afternoon.
Why did you choose the program in which you participated?
Ever since I became interested in St. Ben's, I heard nothing but how great the study abroad programs were. That is where the interest started. As I began college and jumped back and forth with majors, I thought that study abroad would not fit into my 4 year plan. I then talked to a senior who told me her biggest regret was not studying abroad. Another of my friends told me to talk to my advisor or even explore different majors, because it would be worth it to fit it in. My advisor told me to go ahead and apply, and she would make things work for me. I was so grateful to her for letting me squeeze it in, because it was one of the best experiences of my life by far. I chose Greco-Roman because as a Theo major, the theologies of both places would be perfect. Also, I've always wanted to see Greece and Italy - they were my number 1 choices. It was fun picking a program different from my normal science classes for Pre-Dentistry, and allowed me to get a whole new perspective on different subjects.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
I would tell them that it was so incredible, that I would truthfully need an entire day's worth of time to sit down and explain it. That's how amazing these experiences are - it's way too difficult to summarize in a couple sentences. Without a doubt, they should do it, even if they are unsure. This opportunity will never come about again, and I'm really glad I took advantage of it. You will learn such a great amount, and it will forever change the way you look at things. Not only will you see incredible places, but you will meet incredible people along the way.
How has the trip affected you? How are you different for having completed the experience?
First of all, this experience taught me to appreciate my family and friends back home, as well as how thankful I should be for my situation here in America. Compared to what some people are going through in Europe, things are so much easier for me. I've really come to appreciate how lucky I am, and I'm so thankful to have my eyes opened to the world around me. Also, the greatest thing that I learned is that we need to live our lives people-centered. I think people in America tend to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, trying to be the most successful and to get from one thing to the next. In Europe, I noticed that people are a lot more laid back - they take their time, not stressing over being late. They will eat dinners for 3 hours just talking. It showed me how important it is to take time out of your day for people, and to really spend time getting to know them. Your relationships with people are far more important than the "things" around you.
What advice do you have for future Study Abroad Students?
Take advantage of every single opportunity you have to do something incredible. If someone asks you to parasail in the ocean in Greece, do it. Spend every moment you can exploring the city you are living in. Whatever it is, just go out and do it. I did as many things as I could, and I thought that I used my time wisely. So I would advise future students to take advantage of where they are every day they are there. Don't be afraid to do some exploring without a plan of where to go.