Michael Terhaar

Michael is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Rome and Greece

Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I did not originally come to CSB/SJU set on studying abroad, but the more I talked to people who studied abroad, the more I realized I could not miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity. Through a little planning on my four year plan and some encouragement from friends and family, I made the decision to study abroad. Now I just needed to figure out where. Eventually, based on several factors, I decided I wanted to go to Rome and Greece on the Roman-Greco program. First of all, this program catered to me academically. It included classes that were interesting to me and that helped me satisfy some common-curriculum requirements for graduation. As for personal benefits, going on this trip allowed me to meet a longtime friend of my mother who lives in Greece. I had never met her before, so this was the perfect opportunity to see her for the first time. The last factor that made me want to go to Greece and Italy was the fact that English is not their main language. I really enjoy trying to learn new languages, so this was a perfect fit for me because I was able to experience two new languages. In the end, I am grateful for the experiences I had studying abroad, and I am beyond happy with the places I was able to explore during it.

Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
When my mother and aunt came to visit me in Greece, we went out to eat several times during our stay in Santorini (an island belonging to Greece), but one place that we went to eat turned out to be one of the best cultural experiences I had over the course of my study abroad experience. We went to a place called Dimitris Taverna. Ioulia (my mother's Greek friend) knew the owners as acquaintances through her sister Maria. The owners, Dimitris and Stella treated us to the best meal I had in Santorini. Instead of leaving when we were done, we spent around 5 hours there talking around the table and eating authentic Greek cuisine. When we finished one thing, they brought out more food to eat. At one point, they brought us Greek coffee, and after we finished, Dimitris read our fortunes from the coffee grounds on the bottom of the cup. They even introduced us to their children Nicos and Konstantina when they got home from school. It made me realize what true Greek culture is all about, and I will never forget it.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Overall, my study abroad experience was the best collective four months of my life. I was able to go to Italy and Greece which were the locations I actually studied, but I was able to go to many other places as well. We were based in Rome while in Italy and Athens while in Greece, but we went many different places in the countries. I also went to many other countries besides Italy and Greece. For example, I was able to go to the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, and Turkey. The places I went were all amazing, and the people I went with were also amazing. I went to Europe with 29 acquaintances, and I came back with 29 great friends. Everyday brought new adventures and new experiences, and I am grateful for each and every one.

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 you can probably tell by now, studying abroad includes amazing experiences, but it also benefited me on personal level, academic level, and professional level. On a personal level, I was able to do something that would probably not have happened if I would not have studied abroad in Italy and Greece. I was able to meet a foreign exchange student my mother had at her home when she was in high school. Her name was Ioulia, and it was a great experience to be taken around Athens by a native Athenian. Meeting Ioulia for the first time was one of the highlights of my trip and a great personal benefit to studying abroad. Academically, this program benefited me in a couple ways. First, even though I did not take any math courses abroad, as a math major, I was able to visit places that were home to some of the greatest mathematical thinkers of all time. The other academic benefit of studying abroad was continuing to meet requirements for graduation. I was able to take my fine art credits, and I was able to take my upper division theology class. The greatest parts of these classes were we could go and see the things that pertained to the class rather than talk about them in a lecture. Lastly, this study abroad experience benefited me professionally. Studying abroad is a great way to build one's résumé. The experiences I had with other cultures will enable me in my future professional career. Thanks in part to studying abroad, I am able to interact and be productive even with a language barrier. All-in-all, studying abroad benefited me in many different levels.

What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Studying abroad was one of the best decisions of my life. If you are considering or planning to study abroad, this is the advice I would give you. Go into the experience with things you want to get out of it. This could be anything from things you want to see or things you want to do. Then, when you are there, actually do the things on your list. Also, do not just stay in your bubble the whole time. Make sure you branch out of your comfort zone and do something you would not normally do. For example, try something totally outrageous on a food menu or meet a local and have a conversation with them. The options are endless. If you are considering or planning on studying abroad, my advice is do it in all sense of the phrase. Capture every moment and get the most out of the new country and culture.

Do you have any questions about studying abroad in Rome/Greece?  E-mail Michael at mlterhaar@csbsju.edu