Kate Heimel ’24

Program: Italy Semester

Major: Communication

Minor: Sociology

Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?

While I was in high school and trying to decide which college I wanted to go to, one of the main factors I looked at was each school’s study abroad programs. Because of various family members that had attended CSB+SJU before me, I knew all of their programs were amazing. I had a hard time choosing a program because there were just so many places I wanted to go. This was the first time that I would have the opportunity to travel outside of the United States and I wanted it to be perfect. After doing a lot of research on my top three programs, Rome turned out to make the most sense academically. While I was not taking any classes in my major or minor, I was finishing many of the attributes of the Integrations Curriculum. Also, because of the uncertainty of COVID at the time I was applying, I knew that I would have plenty of things to do and places to visit if I had to stay in Italy the entire semester.

Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your program that made a lasting impression.

One of the biggest cultural experiences I had while I was abroad was when we went to a Roma soccer game. I personally love watching sports and soccer is such a big sport over there, so going to a game was something that we all wanted to do. This game was one of the most chaotic things that I had ever been to. We had to go through two different security checkpoints before we got inside. The stadium was packed with fans and was buzzing with excitement. As the game began, the fans all started doing the same cheers and the singing the same songs, except we had no idea what was going on because it was all in Italian. All around the stadium fans were holding their Roma scarfs and waving giant flags during the entire game. Then, out of nowhere came this loud, booming noise and we looked over to see fire and smoke coming from the opposing team’s fan section. We all looked around in shock of what was going on, but we seemed to be the only ones concerned with what was happening. Shortly after that, a fireball was thrown onto the sideline. This continued on during the entire game, but we figured that this must be something that happened often because security and everyone else on the field were prepared for it. Roma ended up winning the game and all the fans sang the “Ciao, Roma” song as their sendoff.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

Studying abroad was one of the best experiences I have ever had. Each day came with new opportunities to learn, grow, and experience the world in a way that I never had before. I was taking classes that I probably would have never taken on campus. The city was our classroom, and we spent many days a week seeing firsthand the things that we were learning about. Additionally, I had the opportunity to travel to many other countries in Europe and experience a wide range of cultures. I travelled with almost every person in our group, and this allowed me to build personal relationships with them all. Since studying abroad is something that I had always wanted to do, I had high expectations, and it is safe to say that it exceeded everything that I thought it would be. I left Europe with a better sense of who I was as a person, with memories that will last forever, and with people who turned out to be some of my closest friends.

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?

Studying abroad brought forth a wide range of opportunities and challenges. From fourteen girls living in one apartment to traveling to eight other countries, we dealt with it all. This allowed us to work on skills like communication, problem solving, and critical thinking. We had to figure things out on our own because there was basically nothing that friends and family could do to help from 5,000 miles away. Additionally, I got the opportunity to meet some great people that I would have never crossed paths with on campus. Everyone had something to contribute to the program and it made being away from campus easier because we had such a good group of Bennies and Johnnies.

What advice can you offer for CSB+SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?

Studying abroad is one of the best decisions you can make for yourself. It allows you to grow in so many ways and you learn so much about yourself. It is definitely hard to leave your friends, family, and the campus culture, but you will be experiencing the world in such a unique way because not many people have the opportunity to live in another country for an extended period of time. CGE puts so much work into making these programs the best that they can be to ensure that you have a fun, positive, and safe experience. Also, the on-sight staff are always willing and eager to help with anything. They were so excited to have us there and wanted to watch us grow and succeed.