Kiley 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 knew that I wanted to study abroad since I was in high school, part of the reason I chose to come to CSB/SJU was that it had such highly rated study abroad programs. I was encouraged from a very young age by parents to go out and explore and experience what the world has to offer and get comfortable being uncomfortable instead of accumulating material things and staying put in one place your whole life. I chose the Greco-Roman Program because of it offered a deep historical and theological experience for me. Theology is my minor and being able to understand the two different perspectives of two different religions back to back was fascinating for me. It was particularly a joy for me because I identify strongly with my Roman Catholic faith and being able to go to the heart of my faith in Vatican city and walk where countless saints walked was very powerful for me. I also have a deep passion for history with a particular interest in the Greek and Roman empires. I had been reading books about the two empires and their myths ever since I in grade school and being able to study them each more in depth actually in Greece and Italy was like a dream come true for me.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
The Greek culture is a very welcoming one. Every person that I encountered seemed to welcome you in both a physical and quote "emotional" embrace. Shopkeepers would ask you where you were from and what you were doing in Athens and what you did for a living and so much more. There was one man particularly who really embraced out group and had a lasting impression on me particularly, his name was Demetre. He owned a cafe near our school in Athens where I would go and study and work on homework for hours on end and he would always find ways to brighten my day. He went beyond asking how I was and how school was going, he would bring me treat after treat and sometimes even coffee for me and when I tried to pay he wouldn't have it. He even gave me recommendations of where to go and see when we went on trips around Greece. He was just so kind. It make me think, how do Greeks with there poor economic situation still find ways to give when Americans who think we are so great still can't find ways to give. He showed me that caring for others doesn't depend on what you have or don't have, it depends on your own action and attitude.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My study abroad experience was everything I thought it would be and more. It was so much better than just traveling to Athens and Rome for a vacation, we actually got to be a part of the culture for a little while instead of simply observing it. It also gave me a wider world-view of the different perspectives and circumstances that exist in the world that I believe has made me a more well-rounded person. The world also seems like such a smaller place, in a good way. I don't see far off places throughout the globe as places that are off in another world, they seems somehow more attainable and real and not fairytale places I could never visit. My experience has made me want to explore the world and all its marvelous differences.
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?
(See answer above to contribute to my personal development and further commentary I add here). Academically, I learned to appreciate disciplines besides my own and apply them. I never considered myself an art lover or particularly good at learning languages but in Athens and Rome you are submersed in the culture where the languages are swirling around you and art is everywhere you look. I found myself being able to apply common phrases more quickly than I anticipated and point out characteristics of artwork I would pass. I was also able to study History and Theology with great interest as these are two subjects I have great passions for and being able to be where a event actually occurred and pray in churches that had been around for millennium made the information set in that much more. I professionally developed in the sense that I expanded my worldview and now look at many conflicts and problems from several points of view. For example, in Greece we can look from outside to see why they are in an economic crisis but the Greeks have there own reasons why. You are able to relate and see their perspective. This I know will help me approach difficult situations I am faced with from all side to consider all of my options to make the best conclusion. This will be an essential skill in the medical field which I plan to enter into one day. It also helps you to understand other people that may be different from you. Study abroad needless to say opens your eyes in more ways than one.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
I would firstly say to DO IT! The experiences it gives you you cannot be replicated in any way here in the U.S. and the growth you get from it is substantial. You could spend years learning a skill that study abroad teaches you in months like reliability, confidence in yourself, and how to "make it work" in any situation that life throws at you. If you need financial help, talk with the Center for Global Education, they can help you. Don't let this moment pass you by because when will you be able to drop your life here in the U.S. and travel for 4 months every again? The answer most likely is that you won't. The even better part about the traveling is that you get to learn and be submersed in the culture. You get to learn how to be a traveler instead of a tourist. Trust me when I say it will change your life for the better and it will be worth it in every way in the end.