Shannon Lane 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.
In Europe there is no need to rush. People tend to walk slower, move with purpose, think things through and never rush you as a visitor. They are thoughtful about your space, language barriers, and treat visitors with respect.
While in Greece, I exercised at a 'Core Fitness Gym', after the workout began speaking to several local residents. We began speaking about the differences between Greece and United States. After an hour later it was 9:00pm, where in the United States they would have somewhere to be, but a young woman my age took the time to speak to me about religion. Her name was Foteiui.
Foteiui was a twenty year old student who shared her perspective on the Greek Orthodox religion with me. I found her viewpoint was similar to my view point upon my own religion. Foteiui believes in God but does not believe in all the practices of Greek Orthodox, such as fasting and miracles. Through my discussion with Foteiui, I learned that throughout childhood they are taught about religion and unknowing has affected her opinion today. I found Foteiui a very independent woman, who believes in what she desires to believe in.
This conversation will stay with me forever. I was very curious how 94% of the Greeks declare themselves as Greek Orthodox. To me this is an extremely high number. Foteiui was extremely open with me and openly shared her perspective. She did not rush off but was willing to explain so I could understand more. During this moment I realized even though we are from different cultures and religions we experience similar things
Why did you choose the program in which you participated?
When I chose the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University to be home for four years, I knew both campuses would allow me to access educational opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom. Education obtained inside the classroom is critical to any intellectual human being. However, real-world experience, like learning how to adapt to different people, environments, cultures, and situations is a key to unlocking the use of that scholarly knowledge.
During my time at CSB/SJU, I have adapted to college and the stress and the struggles that come along with it. Expanding on that with the challenge of studying in another country intrigued me, and I had the desire to push my academic and personal boundaries. By learning two languages and not having the comforts of my home country, my personal securities would be tested.
Overall, I am a people person. I have a passion to communicate with others. I believe everyone has a story to be told and I desire to hear as many as I can in my lifetime. By going to Rome and Greece, I would be able to meet new people and learn their stories.
Personally, I choose Roman-Greco because I would be studying in two countries. I felt as though this would make me more diverse and have a higher sense of self accomplishment. Both countries have a strong sense of family, and one of the main reasons I love CSB/SJU is the community. By fully emerging in the culture where they value family, similar to my own values felt like a great fit to me. I could see firsthand how people put family first rather than themselves.
The Roman-Greco Study Abroad Program dramatically enhanced my outside of the classroom education. Academically at CSB/SJU, I am pursuing my mathematical major but abroad I have deepened my knowledge of history, language, and it challenged my academics. Personally, I wanted the experience to provide me with a sense of self accomplishment, more relationships, and individual improvement.
In retrospect, I was able to take more away from this experience than I ever expected. The interpersonal success will follow me back to the United States where I can continue to thrive and overcome obstacles I never thought possible.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
A study abroad program with CSB/SJU will be a trip of a life time. Don't let it pass you by, as it is one of the greatest experiences you could ever ask for.
Given an instant to decide whether to go back again, my answer would be yes. I enjoyed having two countries to explore. I was able to get adapted to Rome and understand the culture. Then right before I knew it I was discovering Greece and understanding its culture.
At some points it is scary, especially before you leave. However, you will get through it and have a chance of a lifetime. You are among thirty CSB/SJU students that are going through the same things. They do not understand the language or the culture, but together you make it through. These thirty individuals I traveled with for four months, know me better than friends at CSB/SJU I had for two years. The friendships created through this experience are incredible, along with the memories that will last forever.
Through learning knew cultures, I learned more about my own. By conversing with locals both in Rome, Greece, and in Europe I was able to see a different lens on United States. I was able to see concepts differently and either change from my prior belief or become understanding of my prior belief. I also was able to be more thankful for everything that I have at home. Europe has changed my perspective upon the world, for the better.
How has the trip affected you? How are you different for having completed the experience?
Prior to my arrival in Europe, the orientations prepared me for the differences I would encounter; late dinners, no tipping, awareness of 'pick pockets' and such. However, the orientation could never prepare me for the interpersonal change that has occurred within me. Through my travels throughout Europe my view upon the world has change, and I would say for the better.
The trip has made me value the things I had at home. For anyone who has traveled in Europe they understand. For the most part time is relative. People are going to be late and you always need to go with the flow. For an individual who is extremely punctual, this changed quite quickly. I have gained more patience from being aboard and understand things might not go according to plan. Now I am very excited for people to show up at 7:00pm for dinner, when dinner is at 7:00pm.
The store hours in Europe are different than in the United States. Everything is closed on Sunday and in Greece some stores closed in the middle of the day for lunch and siestas. This caused me to learn to be more prepared. On Saturday, I had to make sure I had food for Sunday. I am excited to be home and have the convenience of running to the store on Sunday or shopping on Sunday if I desire to.
In terms of technology, such as a car or a cell phone, I am less attached to when I left. For four months I relied on my two feet and public transportation. At times it was not easy and at times I waited for the bus for half an hour. While on mass transit I was smashed up against another individual however, it did make me realize it is possible to get around Europe just fine without a car. I did enjoy having the convenience to walk everywhere. Since I was living in a city it was easy to walk to the grocery store or to the clothing stores. I wish this was a possibility in the United States.
In terms of using a cell phone, I found it unnecessary. There was no one to call or text, since we all lived by each other. I quickly began to realize this piece of technology was not necessary to survive. I would schedule meetings through email or face to face discussions and this worked fine. After arriving back in the States, I use my phone to contact friends have not seen for months, but it is not my third arm any more.
By going aboard, I have changed and changed my views. I gained the value of patience and the importance of preparation. I also have realized that not all technology is necessary. I can survive with no car and no cell phone.
What advice do you have for future Study Abroad Students?
To a future student who is considering the Study Aboard program, I would tell them take a deep breath, they are about to embark on a chapter in their life that they will never re-live again.
·I very wise person told me once, "If you are not worried, you do not care." Live it.
·The butterflies, the late nights not sleeping, and all the worries are all normal and healthy. You will be fine and you will have an experience of a life time.
·Take every day as it comes. Plans are good to have but they do not need to be set in stone. You are in another country, it is unpredictable but going with the flow is the best way to go.
·If something looks interesting, go check it out. Don't be afraid to ask people what is going on. Always try to engage yourself in conversation with locals. It might be nerve-racking at first but it will become more natural.
·Get the local perspective and you will slowly learn a new way of looking out at the world.
·Just enjoy every moment of next semester and don't take a moment for granted.
·Keep a diary, blog, or visual journal. (I have a visual journal and willing to share with anyone.)... and take lots of pictures! Here is what I did: http://tinyurl.com/6olaoap