Megan McKeehan

Megan is an ambassador who studied abroad in Italy and Greece
Major: Art

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

I made the decision to study abroad because I wanted to participate in something that would have a powerful impact on both my college experience here at CSBSJU, as well as my personal outlook on myself and the world that I am a part of. I wanted a program that allowed me to travel as much as possible, and therefore I was attracted to the Roman-Greco program because of its unique structure. I enjoyed the thought of having a double experience (being that the program is based in two different countries), where I would be able to learn about two new cultures and languages as opposed to only one. I also wanted to attend a program that would satisfy my personal academic needs, and I felt that the courses offered on the Roman-Greco trip would provide that opportunity.

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

I have an obnoxious love for coffee, and one of the many reasons that I wanted to go abroad (specifically to Italy) was to taste the true essence of where so many of the fancy coffee names, that we as Americans use daily, originated. Experiencing coffee culture in Italy was incredible, and most definitely filled my craving to experience that part of the culture. When we began our time in Greece, however, little did I expect to have an even more incredible experience with the coffee culture than I did in Italy. Our school was located right next to a coffee shop (called Stadium) that had newly opened when our program began. I quickly became a regular there after stopping in to buy a coffee everyday, sometimes multiple times a day. My constant presence in the coffee shop eventually led to me building a relationship with the owners. Connecting to the locals was not necessarily a goal of mine prior to my departure abroad, but after building a relationship with the owners of the coffee shop I was pleasantly surprised at how positively it impacted my experience abroad. Simply because of this one coffee shop, my passion and love for coffee grew even more immensely because I was able to learn about how people all around the world share a mutual love for it. I was also given insight to how the generosity of total strangers can morph into a connection that can be kept up half-way across the world.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

The entire trip from leaving home on the first day, to leaving Europe on the last, is the most incredible experience I have ever gone through. I began my trip pre-traveling throughout Ireland and Switzerland with a couple of other people from my program. I was then united with my fellow peers in Rome where we spent two incredible months learning about the Italian culture, as well exploring different parts of the country. During our week break I traveled to Paros and Santorini, two Greek islands. Our program then continued in Athens where we studied Greek history and culture, as well as embarked on more group excursions throughout the country. I ended my trip by post traveling in Spain and Germany. Overall, words alone cannot even begin to describe how amazing the experience was. Being able to travel to multiple different locations was such a positive experience, one that I will hold with me for the rest of my 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?

Spending time abroad helped me gain an important insight to the world and how it works, which prior to my journey I felt I was blind to. I learned about global problems and economic situations that I would never have been exposed to if I had not been put into cities where such situations were occurring. I was able to grow personally by discovering my love for travel, as well as by increasing my pre-existing passion for photography. The classes I took abroad strengthened my interests in art and culture, which has helped me find a sense of comfort in my major. Most importantly, I was able to gain a sense of independence, one that can truly only be found when traveling without family and support system from home, to a place that is totally foreign and new.

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

Do not set expectations for your journey. It is truly just that, a journey, and you must let yourself be prone to the vulnerability that comes along with it. Don't be afraid to leave home, because if you never leave then you never get to experience a world of new things. But also don't be afraid to fall in love with the new cultures you are being exposed to, because its better to have an experience that is painful to see end then to never have experienced it in the first place. If you have any desire at all to travel, take this opportunity without any hesitation, because traveling alongside a group of people who have the same desires and background as you, will only amplify the experience.

Questions?

Do you have questions about studying abroad in Italy and Greece? Email Megan at
mcmckeehan@csbsju.edu