Alexandra is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Roman-Greco
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and experience what this wonderful world has to offer. Previous to studying abroad I had only left the country once and the study abroad experience seemed like a fabulous way to see yet another part of the world. I decided on the Roman-Greco Program because going to the Vatican and seeing Pope Francis again has been on my bucket list since seeing him in the States. Rome and Athens have such a rich history I was very intrigued by, and are important religious cities so I could not think of a better place to study theology and history.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
I attended the canonization of Saint Teresa of Calcutta. I will never forget this day. We left our neighborhood as a group at 4am to walk to St. Peter's Square were we waiting in line for four hours with people from all over the world. There was a group of Spanish speaking pilgrims next to us who were singing to pass the time. They sang one song that we knew the refrain so we joined in. While waiting in line we also met Bennie and Tommie alum, it was crazy how small the world is and to see how connected everyone is. The entire event and hours leading up to the mass was full of peace and joy, despite the fact that people had little to no sleep and were crowded by thousands of strangers. I really felt God's presence that day and that made a lasting impression on me.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My experience studying abroad in Italy and Greece was overall better than I could have ever imagined. I gained the most incredible memories of not only the places I visited, but with some wonderful people that I can now call my family. I thought I would be ready to come back home by the time I was done with the semester, and boy was I wrong. I fell so in love with the cultures, people and cities of Rome and Athens I truly did not want to leave them behind.
Based on your experiences abroad, what are some of the benefits of spending a semester abroad? How has studying abroad contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development?
By studying abroad, I not only learned so much about myself and my own culture and identity, but I learned about two amazing cultures of Italians and Greeks. I am more confident in who I am as an individual and stronger in my faith and trust with God after studying abroad. I had the privilege to study both my own religion's history in it's capital of the world and also experience Eastern Orthodox Christianity, while living in Greece. I am much more aware of how foreigners, immigrants, minorities, and/or people in new situations feel. I learned through experience that it is not the most pleasant feeling to be stared at, or laughed at because you cannot speak as the locals do. I think these situations will help in my professional development to be more understanding and considerate of people coming from different walks in life.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
I would advise students to not be afraid or hesitant in their considerations. Do not be afraid to ask questions or reach out to those who have been through the process already. The experience is truly once in a lifetime chance and I would not trade it for anything. Pick a country that you want to not only study classes in but embrace and experience with every part of your being.