James 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?
I wanted to study abroad because I felt this may be my only chance to live in another country for an extended period of time. This along with the fact that I would live there with 29 new friends made the choice to apply an easy one.
I chose the Greco-Roman program because of the ability to experience life in two different countries on only one trip. It was awesome to immerse myself in two different cultures and be able to see the progression of history from the ancient Greeks to the ancient Romans. Also, the weather in Greece is awesome and the idea of wearing shorts into later October was something that I needed to experience.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Going to a papal mass at the Vatican was a very memorable event for me. Pope Francis is one of the most famous people in the world so to see him only five feet away was unbelievable (some in our group got to touch him). Being at the heart of the Catholic Church and learning the history behind where you're standing makes the experience have a lasting impact.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Overall, I loved my study abroad experience. Part of it was I had a great group and a great director. Spending everyday with your group and experiencing new things in a foreign country creates a bond that will last forever.
I think my favorite part was the many group excursions to various historical places around Greece and Italy. Witnessing first hand sites that carry great historical importance cements your learning. The best part about them, however, was hanging out on the bus and in hotels with my new friends. The best memories are those that involve bus games and swimming in hotel pools.
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?
The major benefit I realized upon returning to the States was how comfortable I got traveling to different places. Before leaving for the semester, I had a lot of anxiety about navigating my way in a foreign country. While you're there, you learn how to travel, explore, and learn all by yourself. Booking a trip to another country for the weekend seemed like a daunting task before the trip but now I feel like I could go anywhere.
Professionally, I think employers value someone who has had an experience overseas. You gain a new perspective on the world which makes you more desirable in the job market.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
My biggest advice would be to try and not worry before going over. Go over there with an open mind and make everyday count. Don't worry if you don't know what the heck you're doing cause you really don't. Something will go wrong, whether it will be missing a train, getting lost, etc. but they make for the best learning experiences. Go and enjoy yourself because you'll be back home before you know it.