Stephanie is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Italy and Greece.
Major: Psychology, Pre-Occupational Therapy
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
When I first enrolled at CSB/SJU, I did not have an interest in studying abroad. However, as I began to interact with more students on campus, learn about what study abroad offers, and listen to the experiences from other students, I soon began to think about the possibility of studying abroad. Four months is a long time to be away from home, and I was unsure if I would be able to be away from home such an extended period of time. I debated the possibility of studying abroad for several months, I attended the information sessions, and I finally decided that the experiences I will have abroad, will be opportunities that I will never have again. The experiences will turn into memories that will last a lifetime, and ultimately the experiences will trump any homesickness I may encounter while abroad. I viewed study abroad as an opportunity not only meet new people, but become friends with students who I have not yet met on campus. I choose to study abroad as an opportunity to reach out beyond my comfort zone, and experience a new culture.
I choose to study abroad on the Roman-Greco program for a couple different reasons. First, the program fit best with my academic requirements, as my remaining common curriculum requirements would be fulfilled with this program. Next, I have had a strong desire to visit Rome from when I was young. I have a strong attraction to the Vatican and the Colosseum, so I thought what better to see Rome than to live there for six weeks? Additionally, I am from a small town in South Central Minnesota. In order to buy groceries, it is a minimum 30-minute car ride, so I wanted to have an opportunity to live and experience life in a big city. Rome and Athens are both large and busy cities, and both cities provided me with a similar, but different view on life in a big city. Lastly, I wanted an opportunity to enhance my communication skills with people from different backgrounds and cultures. I believed that living in two different cities would provide me with an opportunity to experience and understand two different cultures.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
While my group was in Athens, we had the opportunity to be a part of the 2018 Winter Olympic Torch Ceremony. The first modern Olympic Stadium is located right in front of our school in Athens. Every two years, the Olympic Torch Ceremony takes place at this stadium. The Torch is lit in Olympia, Greece, and ran from Olympia to Athens. After arriving in Athens, the torch is passed from Greece to the host country of the Olympics, which was South Korea for the 2018 Winter Games. Throughout the ceremony, dancing from each country occurs, singing, and the guards from the Parliament building in Athens attend the ceremony. It was truly a surreal experience that became a highlight of my time in Athens.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My overall study abroad experience was truly surreal. After arriving home, I have reminisced with friends and while looking at the many pictures. The four months away went unbelievably quickly, and it honestly all felt like a dream. But then, I remember all of the amazing friendships I made, that will truly last a lifetime. Study abroad is an extraordinary experience that not all students have the opportunity or desire to experience, but it will be one of the best and most memorable experiences of your life, and you truly have to be thankful for each opportunity.
Roman-Greco was especially unique as my group had the opportunity to study in two very different cities. The planned weekend excursions were incredible. Our group would often travel by coach bus, which was a great way to see other parts of the country. On weekends when we did not have a planned excursions (which were not many), I would often make independent travel plans with a small group. Sometimes we would travel to a nearby city, and other times, we would leave the country for the weekend.
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 helped me grow as a person. While I was abroad or even upon my return home, I did not realize how much I was developing as a person. But, upon my return to campus, I have noticed a change. I am more comfortable and confident with who I am. Study abroad provided me with time to develop as an individual, and now as I have returned to campus, I feel like I am my own person. I am more confident when talking with other individuals. Prior to study abroad, I was a very independent individual, but I believe study abroad enhanced my independence as I quickly had to adapt to living in two cities, and navigating several other cities throughout my travels. I was also required to cook my own meals, which required extra planning throughout the week. Additionally, study abroad has enhanced my communication skills with individuals of different backgrounds and cultures. Each day, I was fully submersed into the Roman and Greek cultures, and it is crucial to determine methods for communicating with native citizens. I now feel comfortable communicating with different cultures, which I believe will be an asset for my professional development. Further, study abroad has helped to enhance my teamwork skills. It was critical that I worked with my peers each day for a few different reasons, which include, ensuring safety within our group, navigating a new city, and group work within the classroom.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Do it. Study abroad is an opportunity you will not have after graduation. It is truly a unique experience that you must fully immerse yourself into. While abroad, if you have an opportunity to sit on the steps in Rome to listen to music, do it. If you have an opportunity to eat gelato twice per day, do it. If you have an opportunity to travel during the weekend, do it. You are only abroad once, so be sure to take every opportunity before you. Your time abroad will fly by, and you must be sure to take full advantage of everything. I would also encourage you to appreciate every moment, because it will be gone before you know it. And remember, there are 30 other Bennies and Johnnies, past and present, who have/are experiencing the same thing as you, so do not be afraid to talk with them or ask questions. Study abroad is truly a surreal experience, and the opportunity is before you, you just have to take it.