Erin Hacker

Erin is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Italy and Greece

Major: Elementary Education

Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?

When I came to CSB/SJU I knew that they had so many wonderful opportunities to study abroad that I wanted to explore. I had always wanted to travel to another country and learn more about their culture and history. I wanted to become more independent and confident in myself. I knew that I would never have the chance to have this amazing opportunity again. I chose the Roman-Greco program because Italy and Greece were two countries that had always been places I had always wanted to experience. This program gave me the unique chance to study in two places, not just one. This program allowed me the best opportunity to see as much of the world as I could in my time abroad and that was such an amazing gift.

Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.

A cultural experience that I will remember forever was the opportunity to not only watch, but participate in the 2018 Athens Marathon when we were in Greece. Greece was where the marathon was invented and first began. The finish line for the marathon was right next to our school in the Panathenaic Stadium and a 5 minute walk from the apartments we were staying in. I was able to participate in the 5K run. Before my race we went and watched the people who were running the full marathon finish in the Panathenaic Stadium. The stadium was packed full of people and music was loudly playing. The emotion of watching people from over 100 countries run into the stadium and run the final bit to the finish line was a memory that will last a lifetime. The sheer excitement mixed with exhaustion was truly an inspiration. We even had 4 members of our program run in the full marathon and we were able to cheer them on when they made it to the finish line. Every person on our program either ran a race, volunteered for the race, or cheered everyone on during the marathon. Being a part of the Athens Marathon made such an impact on me and our program!

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

Study abroad was one of the most exciting, challenging, and educational experiences that I have ever had. I was able to study in two different counties that had very different cultures and lifestyles. It was hard to live away from home for those four months with people I really did not know, but those people have become some of my closest friends who I constantly see and we look back at pictures and talk about memories from abroad. I learned so much while I was abroad, not only from the on site classes we took to the Roman Forum or the Acropolis, but from the planned weekend excursions as a group to places all over Italy and Greece. Studying abroad has made me want to travel more and see even more of the world because I had such a positive experience while living in Italy and Greece!

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?

Personally, I definitely learned how to be independent during my time abroad. I learned how to shop, cook, and communicate in different languages. I learned how to balance my finances for the four months I was abroad. Academically, I was able to see what we were learning first hand as we were usually not in the classroom for class, we were on site. I was able to take classes that were outside of my major, but fulfilled common curriculum requirements. Professionally, I became more confident when it comes to communicating with people from other cultures and backgrounds. I also was able to observe educational systems other than our own to see the similarities and differences. Study abroad also helped me become more flexible. Sometimes buses didn't come on time or classes got moved to different locations. I leaned how to adapt to those situations that did not go the way you first thought.

What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?

If you are considering any type of study abroad during your time at CSB/SJU, do it! Find a program that speaks to you and one that you find interesting. Talk to someone who knows the program. Even if the thought of going abroad scares you, take a chance because an opportunity like this is hard to find again. Take in every moment while abroad because you will blink and it will be over. Each day brings a new adventure and new experiences. You will come back with an amazing community of Bennies and Johnnies who have shared your same experiences and will be life long friends!