Christine is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Greece and Italy
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
Initially, I chose to apply for the Greco-Roman program because of fact that we would be able to reside in two different countries. I liked the idea of never being settled and having the ability to learn about and experience two different cultures. I chose the Greco-Roman program specifically due to the many recommendations from previous ambassadors and students that explained how the weather would play a major role in the experience that I had abroad. Because of the weather, our group was allowed to go swimming in Santorini, climb Mount Olympus, and experience Rome at Christmas time. Another academic reason that I wanted to study in Rome specifically was that I would get an opportunity to study the Catholic Church where it all began. On a personal level, I knew I wanted to travel somewhere in Europe so that I would be able to travel to different countries without breaking the bank.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
One of our first assignments in my Greece Theology course required that we go up to a random person on the street and chat with them about their religion. Coming from America, where we refrain from talking so openly about religion and politics with complete strangers, this seemed almost rude. Our teacher assured the class that most people would be completely open about their religion. I was particularly nervous about this assignment because I wasn't sure if I would be even able to communicate with someone, let alone talk with them about something so personal. However, once I found my interviewee, although it was hard to communicate and understand him, I found how open and conversational the Greeks people are. It was a really eye-opening experience for me, and I will never forget the pride I felt after the interview was over and I said ευχαριστώ!
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
If I had to say one thing about my overall experience, it would be that I was constantly pushed outside of my comfort zone. Whether that be through means of interacting with Greeks or Italians, experiencing the grocery store for the first time and not being able to read any of the labels, walking through an unknown part of the city, or jumping off a cliff in Santorini. It was the experience of a lifetime!
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?
There are no words to explain how much I enjoyed my study abroad experience in Greece and Italy. Studying abroad, in an academic light, allowed me to study and see firsthand, some of the most prominent paintings, sculptures, architecture and churches in the world- something that I now have a HUGE appreciation for. On a professional level, it forced me to work and interact with people who spoke a different language and had different cultural norms than I did, enhancing my communication skills and humbling me. On a personal level, it made me more self-sufficient, independent, open-minded, and welcoming of challenges and adversities. Spending a semester abroad is a scary, wonderful, and self-enhancing adventure that every person should get to experience.
What advice can you offer for CSB|SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
The main thing I would say is that this will be one of the most unique and life-changing experiences you will go through. I would say to expect challenges and be open-minded about trying new things, especially in regards to food and exploring the city you live in. Financially, I would encourage them to remember that once they leave Greece, they have another two months in Rome and to NOT SPEND ALL YOUR MONEY IN GREECE (I had to learn this the hard way). Along the same lines, I would encourage every student to download the Venmo app. Finally, I would say do everything even if you're tired or just do not feel like it. Trust me, you'll thank yourself when you come home!