George is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Greece & Italy
Major: Political Science & Theology
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I chose to study abroad because I thought it would be an incredible opportunity. And I was right, of course. Having grown up in rural Minnesota, I wanted to experience something I hadn't before, and studying abroad was an excellent opportunity to branch out and live a life I wouldn't have been able to otherwise.
I chose Greco-Roman for several reasons. First, the locations really fit my interests and majors. As a Catholic and theology major, Rome was of course somewhere I wanted to spend some time, and Greece was also interesting because of its history, literature, and its own importance to Christianity. Second, I liked the program itself. I looked into other programs where I could get more classes done for my majors, but I decided on this because the classes I could take on Greco-Roman were relevant to the region itself and gave an entirely different experience than I would get at SJU, or even on another program. Almost all class sessions in Rome and a large percentage of the in Athens take place outside the classroom, giving us all the opportunity to take in the churches, ruins, and art museums with top-notch explanation from the faculty.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
I play trumpet for just about every band and ensemble on campus, and I couldn't afford to quit playing for semester, so I brought it with, packed in my suitcase. While walking around Athens one Sunday afternoon, I heard live jazz coming from a café down the road, so I stopped in and just listened to the quartet play for two hours. After they finished their set, I went and talked to them afterwards and they invited me to come back for a jam session in a couple days. I did, and ended up playing with them several more times during our stay there. A lot of the other students on the program - and on one occasion, even the directors - came out to the café to support me, making a group event out of it. This was a great opportunity to meet some of the local people and make music together, as well as one of my favorite memories from the semester.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
W.O.W. Wow. Amazing, and 100% worth it.
The program of course was fantastic for academic and cultural learning, but what actually turned out to be the best part for me was the opportunity for personal growth and interpersonal connection. Getting dropped into a foreign culture with a group of 30 people you don't know really gives you an opportunity to figure out who you are and who you want to be. I feel like I definitely came back as a better person than I was before. Additionally, I didn't know too many people on the program before departure, but I came back with more real friends than I've probably ever had. All 30 of us just became like a family, bonding over early-morning ferry rides, late-night gyro runs, and all of the other memories we shared over the semester. I couldn't be more grateful for the experiences I've had and the people I've shared them with.
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?
Study abroad is so incredibly beneficial in so many ways. It's an exercise in independence and self-discovery. It's a learning experience different than any in a classroom in Minnesota can provide. It teaches you so many skills that employers look for - cultural awareness, time management, self-reliance, communication, and so many others. Honestly, I just can't say enough about all the good things about study abroad.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
DO IT. I guarantee it'll be one of the greatest experiences of your life. Choosing to study abroad was one of the best decisions I've ever made.
As far as actual advice goes, the hardest thing for me was finding balance. Between schoolwork (because we're first and foremost students, of course), exploring the area, experiencing the culture, spending time with friends, taking time for yourself, and whatever else comes up, it can be hard to find balance. You will almost certainly feel exhausted at some point. That's ok. Sometimes, it's worth it. Make sure you take advantage of your time there - it really is an incredible opportunity. But at the same time, DON'T BE AFRAID TO TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF. There will always be more to see and do, but seeing and doing comes after you take care of your own physical, mental, and emotional needs.
Please feel free to email me if you've got any questions. I'd be more than happy to talk to anyone about anything, anytime.