Gabriel Karstrom

Gabriel is an ambassador who studied abroad in Italy and Greece
Major: Political Science

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

I chose to study abroad because of the marvelous opportunity to experience and discover new cultures and lifestyles. I strongly believe that seeing the world is something that everybody should do, if possible. The chance to travel somewhere with a group of students and friends is invaluable. I chose the Roman-Greco program because of its unique orientation in that I was able to travel and live in two different countries. Unlike most study abroad programs, I interacted and experienced two different cultures and lifestyles. The Roman-Greco program also offered an extremely historical element that was very appealing. Walking through the Roman Forum or climbing the Acropolis in Athens were things that I have only dreamed about doing. This was an opportunity to make those dreams come true.

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

In Greece, we had an opportunity to attend a Greek national team soccer game. The game was a World Cup Qualifier Match against Romania, so the turnout was enormous. People here in the United States always talk about how crazy European soccer, or football, is. Needless to say, everything was spot on. The fans for the Greek national team were absolutely ecstatic. Many Greeks in the crowd wore jerseys, scarves, or hats as a show of who they were cheering on. The most dominating factor out of the soccer game that I remember was the outpouring of nationalism present in the stadium. The fans were cheering and singing chants in unison all throughout the stands. The sheer noise in the stadium was something truly remarkable. I was able to see the pride and respect many of the Greeks hold in themselves, as well as their country through this soccer game. For me, it presented a special insight into Greek culture that I had not yet been able to experience. The game served as a great reminder of the stark nationalism in the nation, despite the current hardships the country is facing.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

Spectacular. Mesmerizing. Unforgettable. These are only a few words that describe my amazing experience abroad in Italy and Greece. Everything was such a unique, remarkable experience. I had an awesome time learning about the different aspects of Rome and Athens, both in and out of the classroom. The study abroad group from CSB/SJU I traveled with was a truly fabulous group of individuals. I developed new friendships and became even close to those I already knew. My overall study abroad experience was something I will never forget and always cherish.

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?

As a student studying Political Science and History, I was able to really strengthen and further my academic career. Traveling to different sites around Rome and Athens really helped me to stay engaged and develop a stronger sense of academic knowledge. I was able to explore and learn on site about places like the Basilica of St. Peter or the Parthenon on the Acropolis rather than read it out of a textbook. Personally, I saw my dreams turn into reality. I have always wanted to walk through the Square of St. Peter and attend a Papal Mass ever since I was young. The rich history that I was able to actually see in person was by far one of the greatest benefits of studying abroad. For my future goals, study abroad really helped me in providing a stronger sense of understanding about the world and its diverse aspects. I would like to someday work for the Department of State, meaning that travel and immersing myself in new cultures would have to become second nature. Study abroad prepared me in learning how to navigate my way through new challenges and how to deal with unexpected obstacles, something that anybody will have to deal with later on in life. Overall, these are only some of the many benefits of studying abroad for a full semester. The experiences you have with your group from CSB/SJU are absolutely worth everything in the world. Everybody becomes so much closer and great relationships are formed out of the memories over the course of the four months.

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

My biggest piece of advice is to enjoy yourself. Everybody works hard to save financially for study abroad, whether it is freshmen year upon entry to CSB/SJU or the summer before the year you are departing. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel abroad with a group of students and friends, so go out and travel for a weekend or try a new restaurant down the street that looks interesting. There is so much to be discovered and experienced on study abroad. So go out every night for a week and try different flavors of gelato or book a flight out to a neighboring country. I promise you that, in the end, every dollar spent will be absolutely worth it.


Do you have questions about studying abroad in Italy and Greece? Email Gabriel at