Elizabeth is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Roman-Greco (Fall)
Major: Elementary Education
Minor: Mathematics Endorsement
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
The study abroad opportunity at CSBSJU was one of the reasons I visited and decided to attend college here. I wanted the opportunity to not only see the world, but to immerse myself in another culture. I live in a small town in Minnesota, and I wanted to challenge myself by living in unfamiliar cities with new people, languages, and customs. I specifically chose the Roman-Greco program because it was the only semester study abroad program that allowed me to live in and learn about two different countries. I wanted the opportunity to study theology in a city that is centered on Catholicism. I wanted to have the opportunity to learn two new languages. I could not wait to learn thousands of years of history in places where civilization began. I wanted the opportunity to call two new places home. Best decision I ever made.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
One of the most shocking cultural experiences I had while abroad for a semester was the language barrier. In both Italy and Greece, I did not speak the language. I bought groceries whose labels I could not read, ordered food by speaking broken Italian/Greek, and I had conversations with local people by using mainly hand gestures. It was challenging. However, this language barrier gave me a better appreciation for people who come to America and do not speak our language or know our customs. I have more compassion and understanding for people who are different from me. While studying abroad I challenged myself to embrace two new cultures to the best of my ability, so instead of saying I was a ‘”typical American tourist”, I can say that I truly lived and adapted to the best of my ability in Europe.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My study abroad trip was, simply put, amazing. I could go on and on, but I will try to keep it somewhat short. It was a once in a lifetime experience, and I am so grateful to have seen so much of the world. This trip was unlike anything I could have imagined. I lived in apartments in both Rome and Athens with other Bennies and Johnnies. I bought groceries in languages I could not read, navigated cities without tour guides, found hidden gems not on tourists’ maps, took weekend trips around Europe, and made lifelong friends. While studying abroad I took courses in art history, theology, language and culture, and literature. I learned the customs, traditions, and beliefs of the countries I lived in. I was able to study Greek mythology and then visit the Parthenon, discuss the importance of Jesus and then climb up the Holy Steps. The classes I took and the information I learned was my favorite part of studying abroad. The professors I had and the people I met influenced me significantly. Also, when else can you find a cheap flight for a free weekend and take off to Malta or Germany? Studying abroad for a semester is different than any vacation or excursion you can take, because you are not a visitor, you are a citizen. While abroad I was able to feel like I belonged in both Rome and Athens, and I cannot wait to go back to my second homes someday.
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?
Studying abroad has an unlimited amount of benefits. You can take courses you may not have the opportunity to take back at CSBSJU. The classes also often involve field excursions, which are great for hands-on learning. You learn about new cultures and gain understanding of those who are different than you while abroad. Also, the friendships you will make while abroad, either with other foreign students or Bennies and Johnnies, are incomparable. Spending four months with 30 people brings you together, and you share a special bond.
As a future teacher, studying abroad taught me how to be a more effective teacher to students of other cultures. I also learned how important hands-on learning is while teaching all subjects. I was able to learn about other teaching styles used around world, and I hope to incorporate certain techniques in my own classroom. Studying abroad helped me become a stronger more independent person. I learned my strengths such as leadership, and overcame some of my weaknesses, like reading directions and being introverted. It stretched my way of thinking and my comfort zone. Overall, studying abroad made me a worldlier and more adventurous person with a greater appreciation for life.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Enjoy every minute and grasp every opportunity. The things I learned, people I met, opportunities I had, and the places I visited will stay with me for the rest of my life. You will never look back and say, “I wish I had not gone abroad” or “I wish I had not tried this new food or gone on this excursion”. You will only look back saying, “I wish I would have.” So try everything. Try new foods even if you would not eat them back home. Attempt to speak a new language, even if you sound silly. Take advantage of every class you take and museum you visit because the information is interesting and beneficial. Speak to the locals because you can learn a lot from them. Take lots of pictures, eat more gelato than you should, make new friends, and see as much of the world as you can.
Do you have questions about studying abroad in Italy and Greece or want access to her personal blog? Email Elizabeth at [email protected]