Margaret 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?
I had never left the country before and I felt that this would be the best opportunity to do so. The more I talked to past students who studied abroad, the more excited I got about having the opportunity to experience new places and cultures. I knew that I would not be able to travel like this for a long time, so I decided to take advantage of this now. I loved the idea of learning and traveling with students my age and from the same school to create new friendships.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
I had the amazing opportunity to not only see the Pope once, but twice. The first time I saw him was during the Papal Audience. The day started out with having a private mass below Saint Peters Basilica and then getting to walk around the Basilica with virtually no one inside. Not many people get the chance to do that. After that we went into the crowd, surrounded by people from so many different countries and cultures. It was amazing because although we were all from different places, we were all there together waiting for the same thing.
The second time was just as special because I was with my parents. This was their first time walking into Saint Peters square and I loved seeing their reaction. It was a Sunday mass, so the Pope would be making an appearance. We were all the way at the back of the square, and we did not expect to see the Pope up close. Towards the end of the mass, many of the guards started to come out and they were clearing the path where the pope-mobile typically rides through. My parents and I decided to quickly grab a spot right in front of the gate where the path was. About 10 minutes later Pope Francis was riding around and he started to come down the path right where we were standing. In the end my parent and I were about 10 feet away from him. It was such an amazing surprise that my parents and I still talk about.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
It was one of the most challenging, new, different, exciting, life changing experiences I had ever had. Being thrown into an environment where the language and culture is completely different than what I am used to was so hard. Over time it was easier to adapt and I started to enjoy my surroundings. Interacting with the locals was one of my favorite parts. The people in Greece were so friendly and they genuinely wanted to get to know you.
Also, being able to go on the many excursions the school provided made the experience more exciting. Having the professors go along with us on the excursion helped me learn more than I ever thought.
Overall, I had the time of my life in both countries. I know I will be telling stories of my adventures from abroad for a long time. My semester abroad has made me want to travel more and I am already thinking of places to go next!
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?
Being abroad has made me more independent. Yes, you have friends and an adviser to lean on, but there are some things that you have to find out for yourself. In my personal life, I have met a great group of people who have gone through the same experiences I have. I know that the friendships I have made are life-long.
Academically, I learned more than I ever thought possible. The amount of museums, monuments, and churches I saw were crazy, but worth it. I was so excited to go to a different place for class everyday because it contained so much history.
In a professional sense, I learned how to adapt to new and unexpected situations. In the professional world, unexpected things can happen, so being thrown into a new environment helped me better those skills. Also, if I ever decided to take a job abroad, I believe that I could adjust faster because of my time abroad.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Advice I would give would be to patient and open-minded. Sometimes things will not go your way, someone does not understand the language you are speaking, you get lost, or you feel like you just do not fit into the country you are about to spend a full semester in. I certainly felt that way multiple times throughout the semester. When that happens, you just have to be patient and give it time. Sooner or later you will get used to the country you are living in and you love it. I would also say to appreciate every moment you have abroad. Before you know it you will be on a plane going back home, so soak up every memory and take advantage of every opportunity you have.