Mark is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Italy & Greece
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I decided on this program for a few reasons. First off, I have always wanted to go to Rome and Athens. This program enabled me to do it! I have always wanted to go to Europe as well. I wanted to see art, history, and theology of Rome, and investigate history and art in Greece. I was also interested in going to two different programs in order to compare the cultures and aspects of the two countries.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
One thing that made an impression on me was Saint Peter’s Basilica. Seeing the actual center of the Catholic Church was incredible for me! I am a practicing Catholic and being able to go to the Basilica for mass maybe once a week or so was just incredible. It’s amazing to think that people built this massive church in the 1500s. The artwork and symbolism and theology behind the building is just awesome.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
I would say overall it was an amazing experience, one I would repeat in an instant given the opportunity and one that I would recommend for anyone. Being in a country other than your own really opens your eyes, sort of bursts your cultural bubble. Living in places that don’t speak English as their main language was quite an adjustment. Being able to go to classes at actual places like St. Peter’s basilica, the Parthenon, and the Roman forum really increased my appreciation and understanding of ancient history.
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?
I have developed personally through the relationships I have made with others and, surprisingly, a mindset more thinking about the future. Academically I took classes that were outside of my major, classes I would never take otherwise but nonetheless extremely enjoyed. Being able to both do biology classes at home at CSB/SJU and then going to Rome and talking about the five imperial forums are two drastically but equally fulfilling experiences.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
You may not need to pack as much as you think you need to. The only thing you really need to pack enough of is clothing, because the washing facilities are somewhat limited, especially when you’re traveling by yourself away from the main sites. Eat local food, even if you may be craving that hamburger every night. Cook food with local ingredients. I decided to try new fish each week, as they have fresh whole fish in most supermarkets in Rome and Athens. Also, don’t be afraid to plan things not too far in advance. Longer trips may need more planning, but transportation is relatively cheap and available in Europe. Also, Airbnb’s are the places I most enjoyed staying at when traveling outside of the main program sites. Hostels are great if you want to meet people from other countries. However, if you like privacy and having a secure place to stow your stuff then Airbnb’s are the better option.