Rachel is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Italy and Greece
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I knew of family friends and siblings who studying abroad. Some of them going on the Roman-Greco program. I saw pictures of their trips and heard stories of them when I still was in high-school. When I decided to attend CSB I knew that I was going to apply for Roman-Greco for my Junior year fall. I loved the idea that I could have the opportunity to live in not one, but two different countries when I studied abroad.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
One Cultural experience that made a lasting impression on me, was the hospitality of the Greeks. They were always the nicest people, and would go out of their way to help you and get to know you. I met one man that worked in the bakery under our apartment one time, and every time I or any of my roommates walked past, he'd make an effort to wave and smile. This made us want to stop in more often. They have so many family owned stores and just want to make relationships with you. They truly want to get to know you. Another perk was they like giving things to us for free. At a coffee shop they learned all our names and would give a treat if we ordered a drink free of charge. One of professors said that when the CSBSJU students aren't around the owners of the businesses will start to ask when we are going to come back again, because they missed us. That was awesome to hear, because it shows they do truly appreciate us being around, even if its just because we bring a little extra business. They are all genuine people. That made a lasting impression on me and I hope to bring that to my work place, to truly get to know people and show people that I care.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My overall experience was the time of my life. It is absolutely a once in a life time opportunity. You are told that the experience will change you, but until you go there yourself you have no idea how much it does. I was lucky to travel to seven different countries. That taught me how to navigate new and unfamiliar transportation options. It had many peaks, the main one being that I got to see many parts of the world I had never seen before. There were a couple of valleys, but there are valleys in everyone's life especially over a four-month span. The experience was full of true happiness situations. I can't count how many times I said I am so genuinely happy right now. The simplest things made me appreciate life. One of my favorite things was just wondering and looking around. The buildings were crazy beautiful and just getting a feel for their way of life.
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?
Benefits of spending a semester are that you have enough time to truly get settled in. You learn your way around the city. You get to know locals, and they get to know you. You become familiar with and truly adapt to their culture. You get yourself a nice routine. Also, have enough time that you don't feel stressed if some nights you rather relax at the apartment then go and explore. It is also nice that you have enough time that if you want to do independent travel you have plenty of weekends to pick from and aren't overwhelmed that you won't fit everything in.
Studying abroad has contributed to my personal life by making me a much more independent person. I have always considered myself to be independent. But after that first time, I got up, walked to the grocery store, translated everything, paid for it with my own money and walked home. I felt accomplished. It's the littlest day to day routines that you realize mature you because you are way out of your element. I learned how to navigate, how to do public transportations in a language I do not understand. You become more confident, I would ask for help when needed, but also learned that I am capable of figuring a lot of it on my own. You learn a lot about your strengths when you are in unfamiliar situations. For my professional development, it absolutely matured me in some aspects. It helped me learn how to communicate with people that are not similar to myself. Then lastly it has broadened my resume.
What advice can you offer for CSB|SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
To live it up as much as possible because it does go by crazy fast, and it is truly a once in a lifetime experience. One thing someone told me before that really helped me was not to worry too much about money. Obviously, be smart. However, you can learn ways to save money like packing a lunch instead of eating out for lunch every day. But you are only going to study abroad for four months once. Down the road, you will not remember how much that airplane ticket was (they are very cheap) but you will remember the memories you made during the weekend trip.
Something that wasn't brought up before I left, was being warned that sometimes being with the exact same 30 people every day for four months may get hard. You will create some of the closest relationships in your life from this trip. However, it could be your best friend ever, but if you are constantly with that person there may be things that start to get on your nerves. Be very open with one another, talk things out right away. That helped our trip a lot. It's normally nothing big at all, so just tell them before it becomes a big issue.