Lauren Schweich is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Rome and Greece
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Harvesting Olives in Greece will always be one of my favorite experiences for many reasons. One of which is that myself, as well as the rest of my group had the opportunity to see a Greek family in action. "Yaya" or "Grandma" greeted us with hugs and kisses and spent much of the day practicing her English on us. The rest of the family was teasing each other, joking and reminiscing for much of the afternoon. We learned so much about culture and history that just spending time talking to the family was a treat in of itself. These people were such a wonderful window into the life of everyday Greek families. Also, what is more Greek than picking olives and making olive oil? Not much.
Why did you choose the program in which you participated?
For me, studying abroad was a very important part of my college experience. College is so much about having new experiences, gaining knowledge and becoming more independent. Studying abroad just seemed like a very natural extension of that. For many years, I had wanted to opportunity to live in a different country for an extended period of time, because I knew that I would not have this opportunity in the future. Prior to studying abroad, I knew that travel would open my eyes to new perspectives and opportunities more so than just being here on campus.
While there are so many wonderful European countries to study in, I felt like gaining a "home" in two totally new and different places would make studying abroad an even better experience. So, the opportunity to study in two different countries is really what drew me to the Roman-Greco program. Italy and Greece had always been on my list of places to visit, so choosing this program was a very easy choice for me.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
It is hard to boil my experience down to just a few sentences. That being said, studying abroad is life changing. You gain independence. You appreciate what you had at home so much more. It is an unforgettable time in your life. You will always remember the places you visited, but more importantly, you will remember the people you went with. I was lucky enough to have an amazing group of people on my trip. I came back with a whole new set of great friends, who never get tired of my "Remember when..." stories. Spending time abroad together is a bond that really keeps people close. You also come back with a sense of accomplishment, that feeling of "Yeah, I spent a whole semester in a different country, and I'm still in one piece!"
How has the trip affected you? How are you different for having completed the experience?
Before studying abroad I was not an independent individual. I always relied on my close friends do go places with me and try new things. I ended up signing up for this trip only knowing one person really well, so right of the bat I had to be more outgoing and put myself out there. I had to get comfortable asking to go with people I did not know on excursions, or asking compete strangers how I should get from the airport to my hotel. There are many points while abroad that you have to make the decision of what is best for you and I think that is a really important lesson to learn.
Studying abroad also made me much more flexible. When traveling you really need to roll with the punches had be ready for things to not always work out. I have always been a bit of a perfectionist, so it was hard sometimes to get over something and move on to plan B; but having had to do that more that once, really made me grow and see that things usually work out for the best.
What advice do you have for future Study Abroad Students?
Pick the program that is right for YOU. Don't just pick one because all of your friends are going, pick one that will teach out the most about a country and yourself. Don't be afraid of new experiences, welcome them; often times they end up being the most memorable. Classes abroad are important, but don't get so wrapped up in them that you miss out on the amazing things new places have to offer!