Emily is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Greece and Italy
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I knew from when I applied to St. Bens that I was going to study abroad. It was part of the college experience that I wanted and I specifically chose a school that would help me make this happen. I chose the Greco/Roman program specifically because the classes fit well with my busy schedule and because of the experience of living in two cultures. I went through all the programs that would allow me to graduate on time and ranked them based off my interest and that is how I chose Greco-Roman.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
In Italy, I lived in a beautiful apartment building that was taken care of a middle aged Italian man. Every morning on our way to class my roommates and I would get scolded at in Italian as we walked by this guys office at the bottom of the stairs. It was so frustrating at first because we could not figure out what we were doing wrong or understand his comments in Italian. We would bring down our trash on the wrong days or be too loud walking by and he would react. It wasn’t until I was headed up the stairs on my own one day that the man smiled and in his accent said, “good morning, how are you.” It was his way of reaching out and showing he is trying to communicate even though we do not speak each other’s language. From then on I used the Italian I was learning in class to communicate with him in all our interactions and not before long we built a joking relationship. Most of our conversations were short or would just consist of a smile but I felt connected to the culture because of him. I had numerous interactions like this is Greece as well when trying out my Greek on the locals. People are so kind and willing to help and that scary feeling of not exactly knowing what is going on is no longer scary once you experience the warmth of a welcoming culture. Choosing a country “that speaks English” is not a good enough reason to study abroad there, and this experience made me realize that the language barrier was an important part of my 4 months abroad.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My overall experience was incredible. Looking back on these four months brings nothing but happy memories and I think that has so much to do with how exciting life is. On a day-to-day basis you try new food (amazing food), have classes out in the city, and experience beautiful scenery. The teachers were a reason why I loved this program so much. They engaged us and were passionate so school felt less like school and was more of a way for us to get to know the country we were living in. Both Greece and Rome have so much history so everyday was constantly surprising. The weekends were filled with fun excursions and on the weekends we did not have things planned I was able to travel to other countries in Europe. This program was fast paced but in the best way possible. The two cities allowed for me to make the most of my semester. While both Athens and Rome are busy and large cities they feel completely different. The architecture, smells, and people made me appreciate them in different ways.
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?
I personally think that there are more positive things about study abroad then negative. I am Pre-Physicians Assistant, which means I have a tight class schedule but that only made study abroad more exciting. For once my college semester was not full of labs. This allowed for me to focus on so many other important aspects of college like building relationships, learning how to be flexible, and most importantly learning how to be independent. I shadowed a PA when I got back that also studied abroad in college and he told me numerous times how much his experiences while abroad have helped him in his career. Not only with grad school applications but also with how to interact and treat people who are not like you. My future career does not perfectly line up with the classes I took but I feel that my time abroad influenced me in so many positive ways. If you want to Study abroad do it you will not regret it. If you are thinking about studying abroad, still do it. I look back and feel accomplished and see growth just from that one semester which makes it all worth it.
What advice can you offer for CSB|SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Take the time to look into the country you are going to be living in. Do not just pick the program your friends are going on. Everyone makes friends abroad and the experience will be better if you have to be uncomfortable just for a little while. I encourage other students to picture themselves living there and research the culture so there are no major surprises upon moving there. When the time comes to leave, soak in everything, put your phone down, and do not even watch Netflix while you are gone, you will start to realize the things you miss and don’t very quickly. Most importantly connect with your group. I still talk to all 29 GRs and our experience abroad was incredible because of how kind and inclusive we were.