Jenna is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Greece and Italy
Major: Elementary Education
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
Ever since I started looking at CSB/SJU, I knew I wanted to study abroad. There really is no other school that provides you with the same study abroad opportunities that we have here. I knew that, as an Elementary Education major, it'd be tough to fit it into my schedule, but I studying abroad was my number one priority. I've always been drawn to adventure, and I loved the idea of stepping completely out of my comfort zone.
I chose to do Greco-Roman because I really wanted to get a broad perspective of different cultures. Being able to live and study in two different countries and cultures was something that appealed heavily to me. No other program offers that, which I think is one of the most unique things about Greco-Roman. The countries themselves really drew my interest as well, and I wanted to experience the lifestyles of both.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
There are so many that come to mind! One of the things that I learned to embrace was the presence and effectiveness of public transportation. Here in central Minnesota, people have their own cars, so we don't really think about public transportation. I learned how to navigate my way around European cities using so many types of public transportation. It was so amazing to see so many people moving in multiple directions with purpose, and it really made me feel like I was part of the culture and hustle and bustle of city life.
When those methods failed, there was always the effective method of walking too! I walked a lot while I was abroad, but I loved it because I was able to get out and see the city I was in. Being able to take in the sights and sounds of each place was so cool, and definitely something I won't forget.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
To say that my study abroad experience was incredible would be an understatement. There really are no words to capture the things I saw and did while I was in Greece and Italy. Being able to actually live and immerse yourself in cultures that pride themselves in their history is amazing. I was able to learn so much about myself and the countries I called home for four months. The friends I made on this trip will stay with me for the rest of my life. Study abroad was a whirlwind of adventure, and I loved every minute of it. There were so many times that I felt like I was living in a dream, but it was real 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?
Some people look at being away from home for four months as a scary thing. However, the things you experience in those four months completely blows every excuse out of the water. Everything that you see and are part of stays with you for a lifetime. You grow as an individual, and you become so much more aware of what is going on in the world as a whole. You get to learn about some of the greatest wonders of the world as they sit in front of you, and you get to be part of the history of another country. Everything you do leaves a lasting impact on you for the better.
Professionally, I was able to expand my knowledge of culture and diversity. I learned how to be adaptable and how to go with the flow. Being in the education field, it's so important to be able to relate to all students, especially those who may be experiencing American culture for the first time. Immersing myself in a place I was unfamiliar with really helped me understand my students might face coming into a classroom.
Academically, I not only grew in my knowledge of the history of the western world, but I also got to experience it. The hands-on, site-exploration learning that was incorporated into our classes was amazing. You aren't just learning about Michelangelo's David in a book; you're going to Florence and seeing it in its entirety. You get to stand where gladiators fought to the death in the Colosseum. It's incredible to say that I experienced that while learning about it.
Personally, I gained a lot of confidence in who I am as a person, and gained a new love for life. Sometimes I got lost while I was abroad, and sometimes things didn't go my way. However, I learned how to keep an open mind and love what I was doing. I also grew to love a new culture in such a way that it will change my perspective on everything I do.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Two words: DO IT. I can't stress enough how rare this opportunity is and how incredibly thankful I am that I studied abroad. For some people, the idea of being away from home and a culture they're comfortable with is an intimidating thing. However, in hindsight, four months abroad flies by. You're caught up in a whirlwind of culture, amazing food, incredible people, and so many indescribable experiences. Studying abroad in Greece and Italy was the best thing that has ever happened to me. The things I learned and the friends I made will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Also, don't ever say no. There are so many things to see in such a short amount of time! Don't be afraid to take risks or go on a spur-of-the-moment trip for a weekend. You'll never know what you'll see! And when you get lost and frustrated, take a step back and remind yourself of where you are. Make the most of everything - even if you find yourself doing something you didn't originally plan on doing!
Be spontaneous. Soak it all in. Enjoy every moment.