Nicole 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 have always had a love for traveling, developed through my family's continuous travelling since I was a child. Travelling with my family helped me appreciate other places and cultures. I chose to study abroad in order to gain more experience with other cultures, but more importantly to do so independently. I chose the Roman-Greco program for many reasons. I loved the idea of being able to experience not just one but two different cultures; it felt like I was able to study abroad twice! Rome and Athens are both very important cities historically, each containing an unbelievable amount of ruins, monuments, and art. Studying in Rome and Athens allows you to learn about art, history, and theology in the places where it all actually happened. I loved that this program gives you educational experience that is very unique and interactive with the cities you are living in.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
My weekend trip to Istanbul, Turkey was a cultural experience that I will never forget. Everything about Istanbul was new to me, from the overwhelming number of mosques to the way the females dressed. The large majority of the population is Muslim, which made me the minority, something I am not used to! Although I felt completely out of place in this country, the Turkish were some of the nicest people I encountered in Europe. Seeing how friendly and accepting they were of others left a lasting impression on me and made me want to do the same in the US. In Istanbul I was able to visit a mosque for the first time, partake in a Turkish bath, and explore the Grand Bazaar, all important aspects of the Turkish culture that I loved and will never forget!
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My study abroad experience was the best thing I have ever done. It was challenging yet rewarding, terrifying yet exhilarating, and life-changing. Studying abroad was a completely new experience that helped me grow in so many different ways. Living in another country, surrounded by a completely different culture, allowed me to put myself out there and experience things I never could at home.
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?
One of the biggest benefits for me was the new family that I gained. Being abroad for 4 months allows you to build relationships that you would never get anywhere else. Throughout this time 29 strangers turned into some of the best friends I will ever have. Studying abroad increased my confidence, helped me become more independent, and made me step outside of my comfort zone. It forced me to take initiative, do things on my own, and learn from my mistakes. I was able to experience multiple cultures, learned to appreciate their differences, and in turn came to appreciate where I come from. Study abroad allowed me to have a different, exciting educational experience than what I normally do. It helped me see how beneficial hands-on learning can be and how important it is to immerse yourself in whatever you are learning about.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Your time abroad goes by way to fast, so take advantage right away! Make a list of things you want to do and places you want to go, and start checking them off as soon as you get there. Don't go a single day without experiencing something new or immersing yourself in the culture. If you are unsure if you should do something, do it. Keep a diary or blog. It is so easy to forget the small details, and they are often the best memories, so write them down! Take lots of pictures, but don't take so many that you miss out on actually experiencing what is around you.