Sarah is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Italy and Greece
Minor: Hispanic Studies
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I chose to study abroad, because I have always had a passion for traveling. I also think it is the time in my life to take such an opportunity. I decided on this particular program, because both places specifically appealed to me. Also, I have known people who have studied on this program in the past and had nothing, but good things to say about them. Furthermore, the fact that I had the opportunity to call two different places home made the experience unique and attractive.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
There was a gyro shop in Athens, that was newly opened. The owners and chefs were younger adults. We built a lasting relationship with this group of people. We didn't share a common first language. In fact, there were many times we were unable to understand each other. However, what we did share was a mutual respect for each other. We were able to communicate through body language and other forms. They loved learning about us, and our studies and experiences. While it was interesting for us to talk to natives of the city we were calling home. They'd help us speak Greek, while we would assist in their speaking of English. We built such a lasting relationship that we have connected with some of the owners on social media, and we have kept in touch that way. We were able to make our mark as more than just dumb, impatient, hungry Americans. We took the time to ask them questions, and let them know how much we appreciated their service, and in turn friendship. It was a big lesson for me. I have a heightened sense of awareness for people whom do not share the same culture or language as me now. Furthermore, I think it is important to make those connections with natives while abroad. As easy as it is to stay within the lines of the abroad group, it is beneficial to reach out and take the time to learn from the small business owners down the block.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
I tell people that while this experience was the greatest one I have ever had, it was not glamorous. I lead a fairly privileged life as a Minnesotan attending CSBSJU. I wasn't able to have the luxuries I have back home. And I am so thankful for that. This helped me learn one of the biggest lessons. I discovered the true value of things. I learned to appreciate the apparently little things our world has to offer, that eventually revealed themselves as the most precious and impressive. I learned to not take advantage of things. I learned to be present in the moment, without the constant accessibility of the internet. I grew so much as a person, because I was out of my comfort zone. I was constantly being put through tests. Tests which challenged the normalcy of my routine back home. I didn't have my usual fall backs, such as internet accessibility. Without these fallbacks, I had to learn how to adjust and use my brain to figure things out. My sense of appreciation was heightened, once again. I saw so many beautiful sights that my words would never be able to replicate. I grew and matured a lot as a person. I discovered things about myself. I made friendships that are bonded by something so incredibly irreplaceable. I made endless memories, and took thousands of pictures. But, the best pictures I have are the mental images. There is something about seeing a sunset, that is too beautiful to be captured on my iPhone.
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?
There aren't many times in your life where you can pick up and go to a different country for a few months. Most of us are going to get jobs, get married, and/or have kids someday. I think it is important to take this opportunity while it isn't absurd to do so. There are so many lessons that you learn while abroad, that could never be read in a textbook, or absorbed by a lecture. It is important in life to test your limits and take risks. Taking these risks alongside other Bennies and Johnnies is a great way to do these things while still having a support system. Learning about other cultures, really puts things in perspectives and I think helps develop a more realistic mindset. Leaving home and seeing the way other people live is a very grounding experience.
What advice can you offer for CSB|SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Take the opportunity while you can. There will be a lot of concerns while going into something this large. However, there is a huge networking system of fellow Bennies and Johnnies who can ease your mind and answer questions. Everyone goes through the sense of nervousness and anxiety prior to embarking on their journey. However, if it didn't get better, there wouldn't be as many of us coming back and encouraging EVERYONE to do it. The fear of missing out on a whole semester, some people may be feeling is completely untrue. Everything will still be here when you return from your trip. It's pretty easy to see all of your friends at Tommie Johnnie, when you're touring the Vatican, or climbing mountains in Switzerland. Abroad isn't always a thrilling, picturesque vacation. However, some of the things I miss the most were the smallest parts of my everyday life. TAKE IT ALL IN. A friend of mine told me before I left that there would be more tears leaving Europe than there were leaving America. This was the most accurate statement anyone has every said to me. I took it with me through every step of my journey. It helped me appreciate every little thing. Even when things get hard, it's important to find the beauty in things.
Do you have questions about studying abroad in Italy and Greece or want access to her personal blog? Email Sarah at [email protected]