Lauren Wander 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.
It is so hard to pick just one! With that said, one experience that does stand out for me happened when we were assigned to interview someone about religion for our History of the Eastern Church course. I was a bit nervous about being able to find someone that would be willing to talk about their religion with me, especially after our professor had said we may need to talk to a few people before we find someone willing to share. I went into a local shop that we passed everyday on the way to class, and began to talk to a very nice young woman. I asked her if I could interview her for my class and she was more than willing to answer all of my questions. As I was interviewing the woman, I felt as if I could relate what she was saying and her views of religion. Once I was finished with the questions for class, she asked me a few questions about where I was from and why I was in Greece. She was very interested in what I thought about my experience in Greece up to that point, and she was curious about how different it is from the United States. Through this experience I found how helpful and open the Greek people are. It made me look at things around me differently, and I felt that I understood the Greek people a little more.
Why did you choose the program in which you participated?
The CSBSJU community encourages students to take the opportunity to study abroad and expand their knowledge of the world by experiencing it, and the ability to study abroad was a contributing factor to my decision to attend St. Ben's. With so many amazing semester long programs, it was hard to decide which one was best for me. After narrowing it down to three options, I always went back to looking at the semester in Greece and Italy. I decided on this program because it was a great way to experience two different cultures (as well as two different types of cuisine), and I was intrigued by the classes that were offered. I have always been interested in history and art, and Greece and Italy are two of the best places to study those subjects. It is one thing to just learn about a subject in a classroom, and it's another to be able to see and experience what you learn about.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My time abroad was the best semester of my life. Not only are you learning about the material in your classes on a different level, but you are able to learn more about a particular culture and in turn learn more about yourself. I had an incredible time experiencing two different cultures and formed relationships with other Bennies and Johnnies that I know I will be connected with long after graduation. I couldn't imagine not having this experience as part of my education at CSBSJU, and I'm extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to study abroad.
How has the trip affected you? How are you different for having completed the experience?
I think that I am more independent and confident after this experience. It can be intimidating going to a different country and not knowing or understanding the language or the regular procedure of how to order something at a bakery. Throughout the experience I learned more about myself and how I handle different situations. Whether it is how I respond to missing a train, or packing my way onto a bus to get to class. I also feel that abroad I had time to think about priorities, and they fall into place differently when you are not surrounded by everything that you think you need every day. It really made me put into perspective what is truly important, and what I really value.
What advice do you have for future Study Abroad Students?
Just go for it! Don't pass up this opportunity! Make the most of the time that you have abroad because it goes by so quickly! Push yourself to do things that you wouldn't normally do. Get up early and watch the sunrise at the Colosseum. Eat that extra scoop of gelato (seriously!). Hike to the Acropolis and watch the sun set. Ride a donkey in Santorini. Soak in everything that you can while you are able to. It is silly to have such an amazing experience and not make the most of it!