Ashley is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Greece & Italy
Major: Nutrition, Pre-Occupational Therapy
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
Studying abroad was something that I did not realize I wanted to do until the time came to apply for programs. I had thought that I would not be able to spend four months away from home in a different country, but I was proved wrong. While I do not recommend waiting so long to apply as I did, it shows that even people who do not consider it right away can study abroad and feel that it was one of the best decisions they've ever made. Given I had a short amount of time to look into programs, I based my decision off the various sites I would see on each program and what I would be learning. Going to Greece and Italy were two places I had always wanted to visit, so getting the chance to not only be there as a tourist, but also a student, was something that really drew me in. Plus, this program allowed me to have the unique opportunity to live not just in one country, but two! Greece and Rome are such great places to study abroad because learning about the ancient world with such hands-on experience is something I know I could not have done as in-depth without being on this program.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
While I was in Greece, I, along with most of the other students, was able to build a relationship with the owners of a local café called Kekko's. They were always so welcoming and would let you stay and chat with them until they closed their doors for the night. They were a large factor in making Greece feel like home, especially as homesickness was present at first. In our last week before leaving Greece, they kindly invited a group of us students to come make a famous cultural desert called baklava with them. Not only did we learn how to make this tasty sweet, but they also surprised us by feeding us a large lunch. This experience was one that perfectly resembles the hospitable attitudes of those in Greece. The relationships and memories I made with those at this café, especially while making baklava, are ones that I will cherish forever.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
It’s quite difficult to summarize in a limited amount of words any study abroad experience. In short, being on the Greco-Roman program was such an incredible opportunity because it allowed me to learn about the ancient world, deepen my faith, challenge my preconceived ideas, and stretch my personal abilities. It is almost surreal to look back and think that I was able to navigate my way through Europe independently and see so many incredible sites. From climbing Mount Olympus to seeing the Pope up close, I can think of no better way that I would have spent my fall semester. I have learned that study abroad is not only a way for students to gain insights about a different culture, but also to better understand oneself. Being able to see various places and experience different cultures has provided for me a more holistic education that I truly believe will carry with me into the professional workforce.
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 a semester abroad is such a great opportunity because it allows you to not just be a tourist, but also a student and resident of the country. Being able to spend this time with other college students, learn about the host country in-depth, and form relationships with locals is an opportunity that you will most likely never be presented with again. Personally, study abroad allowed me to take a deeper look at myself and how my actions affect the world and those around me. I feel that I was able to gain a greater sense of independence and confidence as I overcame various challenges and learned to live a different lifestyle. Academically, I am thrilled that I had the chance to learn about subjects that I would not have gotten to learn about otherwise, but were still beneficial for fulfilling requirements. Classes on Greco-Roman are especially unique because most of them take place outside of the classroom. Whether we were walking around the city of Greece learning about the history or roaming around basilicas in Italy for theology, the academic components of the Greco-Roman program are nothing short of amazing. Although most of the classes were not specific to my major, they were still beneficial for my academic growth because they allowed me to see things from a more holistic view and stretch my preconceived ideas. Study abroad is not only great for personal and academic growth, but can also aid in professional development. Study abroad can teach you how to communicate more clearly with people, especially if there is a language barrier. The independence you will gain will also most likely be evident and beneficial for moving forward and transitioning into the workforce.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
For students that are considering study abroad, all I can say is to do it if you have the chance! While money may be an issue for some students, studying abroad is more affordable that most people realize. What you learn and the experiences you will have are ones that you will remember for the rest of your life. I would recommend that students really do their homework to figure out which program will be the best fit for them. There are so many great options and ambassadors will surely be a little biased about their own program, but you really can’t go wrong with any of them. Also make sure that you reach out to the various services provided for you while applying such as practice interviews as they are extremely helpful. While abroad, take pictures but also be present in the moment, journal as often as you can, and make the most of your time as it will fly by!