Megan Beacom 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.
In our apartment in Athens, we had individual heaters in each of our rooms. The young couple that lived above us came down frequently during our first week saying that our "air conditioners" made too much noise and were keeping them up at night and during the "quiet hours" during the afternoon. They wrote us a note with the quiet hours listed from "15:30-17:30 and 22:00-7:30" meaning 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. We quickly learned these quiet hours are a part of the Greek culture. Because we weren't used to "quiet hours" having coming from Rome and the U.S., we were a little annoyed that they wanted us to turn our heaters off. The second week we were in Athens, we had our university's maintenance man come and fix the noise so that we could keep our heaters on without bothering them. The rest of our time in Greece, they frequently brought down cookies and treats for us, and invited us over for appetizers. This was my first true interaction with the Grecian culture. I learned that by respecting and learning the norms in other cultures, I was able broaden my horizons and immerse myself deeper into the culture.
Why did you choose the program in which you participated?
The Roman-Greco and Greco-Roman programs are the only two programs through CSB/SJU that allow students to not only live and study in two countries, but immerse themselves into two completely different cultures. I was able to broaden my perspective of the world. I wanted to challenge myself, and learning how to live and communicate in two vastly different countries allowed me to do so. My grandmother's older siblings grew up in Italy, and by living in Rome I was able to come to a better understanding of where parts of my family came from. Italy and Greece are also birthplaces of western church, art, and history and I was able to learn about history that shaped our world where it actually took place.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Being able to experience culture shock twice and live in two different countries is truly life changing. You learn things as a student studying abroad in Rome and Athens that you cannot learn anywhere else. Those four months were more than I could have ever imagined. I can now value the global perspective I have gained through this abroad experience, but more than anything I have gained so much respect for other cultures and have come to realize how much I value my family and where I come from. It was really difficult to close that 4-month chapter in my life. I was left with an entire Roman-Greco 2011 family and along with that, so many incredible memories. I could not have asked for a better group to create this experience and make memories with.
How has the trip affected you? How are you different for having completed the experience?
Rome and Greece are now a part of me. Going abroad was challenging, exhilarating, sometimes stressful, and an overall liberating experience. Within those 4 months, I matured mentally, academically, and spiritually as a young woman and have come to a deeper knowledge of myself. I am confident and trust myself being independent and being able to handle anything life throws at me.
Having returned to the U.S. I don't take anything for granted anymore. I have come to enjoy life's simplicities, and have learned that you don't always know how beautiful or meaningful a place is until you have left. Having become a more globally educated person, I feel that it one of my responsibilities to make our world a better place.
What advice do you have for future Study Abroad Students?
Trust yourself. Do things you want to do. Bond with your Roman-Greco or Greco-Roman group and professors, but also be sure to explore by yourself and step outside of your comfort zone. Throw yourself into the culture. Meet people. It's up to you to make the most of this experience. You are extremely fortunate to embark on this adventure. It is worth every pain, struggle, and penny it may take to get there. If you stay open to new experiences, people, places, things and cultures then you will have no regrets.
Also listen when people tell you to PACK LIGHT! That way, you can buy more in Europe and pack more gifts and things you bought when it's time to return home. Overall it will be easier to get to Europe, travel everywhere else in between, and get back home with less.