Emily is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Italy and Greece
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
When I came to St. Ben’s I was not totally sure that I wanted to do a semester long study abroad. Then I came here and was continually hearing about the unique programs and the amazing experiences people had abroad. By the end of my first year I knew that I wanted to do a semester long study abroad program and I knew that I wanted to go somewhere in Europe. I went to the study abroad fair knowing that the Roman-Greco program was interesting to me because of the idea of going to two different countries with different languages and cultures. I knew that Italy had always been a place that I wanted to go because growing up Catholic there is so much history in Rome and I’d be lying if I said that the idea of Italian pasta, pizza and gelato did not intrigue me. Yet what really sold me on the Roman-Greco program was a few friends that talked so highly of their experiences, all the beautiful churches and art they got to see in Italy, and the wonderful people and scenery of Greece. I chose the Roman-Greco program because I wanted the opportunity to experience two different cultures and histories that you read about in books, and you just hope that one day you can experience for yourself.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
One thing that I will always remember is the generosity and hospitality that the Greek people showed us. One memorable time of this was when we meet George and his friends. George owns a little shop near our apartments and it was recommended to us by people that have been on the program before. We were told that we should go visit him but we were also warned that we should be prepared to spend half an hour there. About 7 of us went to meet George and we were immediately welcomed with open arms. George has a table in this tiny shop where him and some of his friends were sitting. Immediately he told us to come sit down. George showed us pictures of people from CSB/SJU that had visited him before, and then asked us if we liked pizza. We said yes, and he went and got us three pizzas from the pizza shop next door. We sat, ate and listened as these men told us stories of their lives in Greece, their families and their travels. Kostas was one friend who told me that him and George had been friends since they were young and that they lost touch for a while, but they are still family. After two hours had gone by we finally left George and Kostas with full stomachs, huge smiles on our faces, and a memory that we will never forget.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
It is hard to come up with the right words to describe how I felt about my study abroad experience. It was amazing, eye-opening, jaw-droppingly beautiful, challenging, uncomfortable at times, and inspiring. I was able to travel to new countries with Bennies and Johnnies that were once strangers but quickly became some of my favorite people. It is special to go abroad with a group of classmates because you have 29 other people that know exactly what you are going through and everyone is going through the same things with you. I was able to see so many historical sites and artworks that you read about in books, and learn by walking around two cities that have so much history. Overall, my study abroad experience inspired me to learn as much as I can and see as much of the world as I can.
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 of doing a program abroad is that you get to experience the culture and see more than the average tourist would. Being able to form a routine, form relationships with locals and see all that the countries have to offer requires all of the time that is given to you through a semester abroad program. Personally study abroad has given me independence and confidence in my ability to not only survive, but thrive in new and different environments. Academically I developed a greater appreciation for learning new languages and learned how to adapt to different styles of teaching. Professionally, I was able to strengthen my communication skills with people of different languages, cultures and perspectives.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Be present in every moment. Really take time to think about which place you want to be in for four months and then be confident in that decision. Soak it all in. It goes by so fast. Accept the fact that sometimes you will be uncomfortable, but you will learn from it. Ask people that have gone on the trip before questions. Chances are they would love to tell you all about their trip and they will have some of the best recommendations because they just went through it and learned from the mistakes that they made. Finally, things will not always go the way you planned, but make the best out of it, those times can turn into some of your best memories.