Kathryn 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?
Going abroad wasn’t something I had always planned for. I was nervous and couldn’t imagine leaving home for that long. One of my good friends had chosen to study abroad during her Sophomore year, and as I followed her journey and heard her excitement over the phone, my mind started to wonder. So I applied, and honestly even after I was accepted, the thought still terrified me. After looking through all of the programs, I decided this one would be the best fit for me. These two countries were full of historical sites I had seen pictures of since elementary school, and foods that I had been dreaming about since visiting the not-so-authentic Greek restaurant in my hometown. Needless to say, all of my nerves were eased by the extra gyro or cup of gelato – an experience I was glad I signed up for.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
In Greece I found a local coffee shop to spend my afternoons at; a solid attempt to work on my studies while still absorbing the culture around me. Down the street there was a family owned minimarket where they had their kids with them every day. The oldest boy, about four years old, would run and poke me quickly before he giggled and ran away, just as I tried to comprehend one line from the Iliad. With my attempted Greek and his lack of English, we decided his favorite activity was grinning while swiping your chocolate cookie you just purchased. Language barriers have nothing on a little fun, and even a four-year-old knows that.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
The most unfair question you can ask someone once returning is this one. To put it into perspective, imagine your favorite vacation. That vacation was jam packed with memories, laughter, and fun activities but was probably only about a week long. I just traveled, met new people, learned new languages, saw some of the most well preserved historical sites, and so much more all over the course of four months. A paragraph just won’t do for this.
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?
Although the benefits are endless, the first one that comes to mind is the time. I couldn’t imagine spending less time in these places, I didn’t even think we had enough time. Time, time, time; it flew by. Personally, this experience has taught me to appreciate small moments, how to navigate without a cellphone, the beauty of understanding the native language, it’s okay to miss the train if you’ll save your friendship, and many others. Academically, this experience taught me that I do not and will not ever know anything about art, literature is extremely profound but Greek tragedies will pull at your heartstrings just about as much as the Notebook does, and Greek will always be Greek to me. Professionally, this experience opened up my eyes to the opportunities abroad as well as teaching me how to handle myself in stressful moments.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Just do it. This experience was worth everything I had to do to get there. If you are still considering this opportunity, talk with past travelers and learn about their experiences on a personal level. Research the countries you’re considering and see what specifically draws you in. Once you are in the planning process, return to those travelers and get their advice – 9 times out of 10 it’s going to be better and more useful than Rick Steves, even though he does have great walking tours. Have fun with it!