Jennifer Simonton is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Greece and Rome
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
One morning in Greece, my roommates and I went to a local bakery that was owned by a family that was actively involved in our school. The girl, Alex, who was close to our age said we could come in early to watch the whole process while also interviewing her about her life in Greece.
So we went in at 4:30 in the morning and watched her Greek father do his typical morning routine in his bakery. It was just an amazing experience. He doesn't speak English, but just by his actions we could see what a kind heart he had. Alex told us anything and everything about being a young girl in Athens. It was also a nice bonus that she gave us a ton of different treats to try :)
Why did you choose the program in which you participated?
I've wanted to study abroad since I was a freshman in high school. I just always knew I wanted to travel the world. I chose Greece and Rome because I felt that was the most fitting place for my theology major. I wanted to see the religious historical sites and be able to spend an extensive amount of time in Rome, particularly. I also chose this program because I was curious about Greece. It is not typically someone chooses to travel in Europe, or live in for a long period of time. I also found going to 2 different places to be enticing.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
I would say that it something that affects your life tremendously. I would be sure to mention that the best part is that you make it your own. The experience you have abroad is up to you. I did anything and everything I could and I have no regrets in that sense. When you go abroad, try everything and be open to all things. Start conversations, immerse yourself and take yourself away from America. It'll be there when you get back.
I would say that my experience was one of the best in my lives and I cannot really fathom how blessed I am to have lived somewhere else for four months with 30 random people. It's a crazy thing when you really think about it.
How has the trip affected you? How are you different for having completed the experience?
I would say I'm still learning about this. I know that I am definitely a more open person. Study abroad is a time when you have to roll with the punches and the things that don't always make sense to our own American culture. I found that I had to adapt and understand that everything would always be okay. My group also had very different personalities and though I thought it was going to be hard, it turned out to be such a blessing. We are a tight group and we learned to love each other in spite of our differences. Now being back, I am more easy going and understanding in difficult situations. It's easier for me to stay calm and pray about things.
What advice do you have for future Study Abroad Students?
This is a really hard question because everyone is different, but like I said before don't be afraid. You are there to try different things and get outside of your comfort box. Don't let fear keep you from doing something. Put yourself into everything and that's where you'll see the most change and affect in your study abroad experience.
Talk to strangers, parasail, go somewhere completely different. Figure out how our cultures differ and embrace that. It's just all so incredible.