Melissa is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Greece and Rome.
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I knew coming to St. Bens that studying abroad would be an incredible experience but I did not know if I would have the time with my major, nor had I ever traveled outside of the country. My first choice program was the Greco-Roman program not only because it worked well into my schedule (offering the general courses that I needed to graduate) but, because I had always wanted to travel to Greece and Italy. This program allowed me to experience two distinct cultures and no other program at CSBSJU offered that opportunity. This program is one of a kind!
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
On one of our last weekends in Rome we attended an AS Roma football game. There are no words to describe the energy in that stadium and the sense of community it created. Every fan was wearing football gear supporting the team. From sweatpants and scarves to jackets and flags there was an incredible amount of love for the game displayed. The stadium was never quiet and it erupted in cheers every time Roma scored a goal. At the end the entire crowd held up their scarves or waved their flags and sang the AS Roma song in celebration of the win. We held up our scarves and tried to sing along with them, and I felt like an Italian supporting their favorite team. We were no longer on the outside looking in, we were part of an Italian experience.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My study abroad experience was waking up on Sunday mornings to a man who walked around our Greek neighborhood playing the accordion. It was watching the sunset over Cape Sounion, eating baklava from the local bakery, and hiking up the Acropolis. My study abroad experience was exploring historical sites such as Pompeii, and connecting to my CSBSJU roots in Subiaco where St. Benedict wrote the Rule of Benedict. It was running through the rain to get to the Vatican, seeing the Christmas trees lit up all over the city, and working with some of the most knowledgeable professors I will ever meet. It was having history class in the Roman Forum, and trying as many flavors of gelato as possible. My study abroad experience is one that I will treasure for the rest of my life.
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 allowed me not only to connect with 29 other Bennies and Johnnies that I had never met before but, fall in love with two completely different cultures than my own. One of the biggest things I learned was how to go with the flow and accept that I cannot plan everything. It is a life lesson that will continue to help me for years to come, because I learned to relax. Both the Greeks and the Italians have a much slower pace of life and I learned to adapt to that. It is important to remember that how you use your time is the most important thing and what you will remember most about your trip abroad is the experiences you will have. They could be small things such as enjoying a coffee with a friend a local cafe or big things such as traveling to new cities. I think learning how to enjoy my time and make the most of it will help me not only personally but academically and professionally as well later in life.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
1. Take every opportunity you have to explore the host country you are in whether that be weekend trips to different cities or seeing the sites within your host city.
2. Don't be afraid to get lost, the more you walk the more familiar you are going to get with the community and it is easier to build relationships with local shopkeepers.
3. Pack light, learning how to live with less is a valuable opportunity.
4. Lastly, remember to live in the moment because your time will fly by so quickly you will not know how you are already back in the US!