Hallie Douglas

Hallie is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Greco-Roman

Major: Theology

Minor: Communication/Secondary Education

Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?

I chose to study abroad because I wanted in increase my worldview and experience full submersion into other cultures different from my own. I hoped that studying abroad would increase my perspective and communication through exploration and personal connections. Specifically I chose the Greco-Roman because this program fit the most with my academic, professional, and personal goals. As a theology major I was looking for a program that would encourage my theological studies through an upper theology class which incorporated studying two different religions and their practices throughout history. I was also interested in the historical development of the Greco-Roman world, which I had heard about in previous CSBSJU courses concerning philosophy and rhetoric. Also, as someone who hopes to teach, studying abroad in two countries would allow me to be able to use this cultural exposure as a teaching pedagogy. In teaching I will be exposed to a number of other cultures and traditions through my students. I had the desire to take these new cultural experiences so that I may have a better understanding of how I can connect with other cultures and practices. For me, Greco-Roman encompassed what I was looking for in a program because it was not only compatible to what I wanted to learn, but it also excited me. I believe that was one of my highest considerations for deciding a program, which is that I was going to be excited about the challenges and experiences that I was going to be exposed to. Greco-Roman was satisfying to my growth academically, spiritually, mentally, and professionally.

Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.

One cultural experience that I faced that had a lasting impression on me was something as small as having my first taverna dinner in Greece. In our first week in Greece, our host college generously took all of the College Year in Athens students and its faculty to taverna dinners. During this dinner, I noticed that at 7 pm we were the only group of people at the taverna. Local Greeks did not come to eat dinner until 8:30 and 9 pm. I soon realized that the way meals were run were very different from that of the United States. For instance the duration of the dinner was over 3 hours long, which was something I was not used to at all back home. The Greek perception of time was different, and the way meals were run was more of a social event rather than a quick bite. My cultural exposure was pushed even further when during the dinner a professor was asking me about my political views. I was always told not to talk about politics because it is a private matter that can lead to conflict, but the cultural practice in Greece was to talk about politics because they are important and need to be addressed. In the course of a three-hour dinner I was exposed to a different perception of time, way of socialization, and cultural norm that I would have otherwise taken as private matters. This dinner experience stayed with me so dramatically because it was one of the first times where I was not in the classroom learning about these practices, but rather I was able to first hand experience them through something as simple as having dinner.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

I would say my overall study abroad experience was wonderful, even when it was challenging. I mean wonderful in that this experience was way more than a just good time. My abroad experience was eye opening. I never imagined that my worldview, independence, and sense of self would be pushed to such limits. I was able to experience things I never thought I would be able to do: like climb a mountain, or be two inches from the Pope, or even read a map in another language. My study abroad experience was wonderful because I was able to learn and be exposed to so many things, which I will always be grateful for.

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?

I believe some of the benefits of spending a semester abroad is the opportunity to learn in a new way, cultural exposure, developing strong community, and growing in independence and adaptability. A semester in a foreign country allows you to gain education and knowledge outside of the classroom, particularly in the ways you are able to interact with the culture that you’re in. I was able to learn so much just by interacting with locals, or walking past historical sites on my way to school, which I believed helped my academic development because I was exposed to this new way of learning and engaging in my education. Also, something I really appreciated about my study abroad program were the friendships I had made. I loved getting to be so close with a group of my peers, and you really learn to rely on one another when you are all in the same situation. The friendships I made abroad are ones that I believe will last a lifetime, and it was exciting to be able to grow personally alongside them. And finally I benefited from learning to be independent and learning to be adaptable. Not everything abroad goes the way you expect it to go, and often I felt myself needing to get back on track. I learned to be flexible and easygoing amongst times that didn’t go as planned, but I also grew to be more comfortable managing on my own and asking for help when I needed it. I believe that these benefits of studying abroad will be very applicable in a professional setting, as well as in my everyday life.

What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?

I can think of a lot of advice on packing, lack of public restrooms, and where to get the best gyro, however, my advice for those considering studying abroad in general is to be daring. When applying I had only flown one time by myself, I had never been out of the country, class-wise I had too much on my plate, and I didn’t know a lot of people who were going to be on my program. I did not let these concerns hinder my hopes of studying abroad and I encourage those thinking about applying to do the same. Studying abroad will challenge you in ways of flexibility, communication, independence, and sometimes community, but even when it’s challenging it can be great. So my advice would be to open to the experiences, and be daring in this once in a lifetime opportunity.