Michael is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Greece and Italy
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I have wanted to study abroad since I decided to attend St. John's; the opportunity to experience other cultures from the perspective of a student was a big selling point for me.
As for choosing the Greco-Roman program, my dad actually did this trip many years ago at St. John's. Since I was young, I've heard stories about his adventures, and the Greco-Roman trip has held my attention ever since. Besides that, I've always been interested in Greek and Roman history, and the opportunity to study history and art history on-site is undeniably unique.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
I can recall the first time I had someone greet me with the "double cheek kiss", which is really more of a "double air kiss while touching cheeks". It was a bit unexpected, as I knew it was generally reserved for more familiar people. The fact that I'd gotten to know someone in the community well enough to get that greeting was wonderful. I continue to stay in touch with several friends from Rome, which helps to continue the impression my trip left on me.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Describing my overall semester abroad experience is a bit of a daunting task; the breadth and depth of the experience is something extremely difficult to put into words. I would say the experience was a nearly perfect blend of academic and non-academic experience. I was able to learn about Greek history while standing on the Acropolis, eat Italian pizza with Roman friends, and learn about the David while it towered above me. The balance of class time and free time allowed for both structured and independent learning, ultimately making my experience a doubly meaningful one.
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?
As I mentioned above, a study abroad experience will give both academic and independent learning opportunities. The classes integrate wonderfully with the location, going beyond simple classroom experiences. Outside of the classroom, I think the increases in confidence and independence are especially noticeable. Navigating a foreign country will undoubtedly lead to increased flexibility, problem-solving skills and situational awareness. Simply living in another country for an extended period of time will give a great expansion of global awareness, and the study abroad programs will only help to fortify and strengthen that awareness.
Personally, I feel much more confident, independent, and decisive than I did before I left for Athens. The way I approach unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations has completely changed, and I find myself tackling new challenges much more readily than before. Academically, I have had the chance to see just how much there is to be learned outside of the classroom, and I would love to pursue academic interests in the field and abroad in the future. Professionally, I feel that I have a much more refined ability to interact with and understand people from other cultures and backgrounds, and I am much more excited and interested in doing so in the future.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
First, if you are considering studying abroad but are still unsure: I strongly encourage you to talk to as many ambassadors and others who have studied abroad as you can. You will notice that the trend of "it was the best four months of my life" will continue well beyond the first person you ask. I cannot think of another opportunity I have had in my entire life that was so densely filled with meaningful and unique experiences.
If you are already planning to go abroad, congratulations! You are going to have one of the most richly rewarding experiences of your life. If you really want to make it count, I highly recommend doing a bit of research beforehand. Talk to ambassadors, former program directors, or the OEA staff. Decide which program sparks the biggest interest in you, and which one makes the most sense for your personal goals. Once you've found your interest, cultivate it, build it. I'd recommend you read up on the best local places to eat, see a play, or listen to local music. If you have a hobby or a passion, try to find somewhere you can pursue it abroad! Finally, bring extra underwear. Always a good call.
Do you have questions about studying in Greece and Italy? Email firstname.lastname@example.org