Katrina Siebels

Katrina is an ambassador who studied abroad in Italy and Greece
Major: Theology


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

I chose to study abroad for many different reasons. I knew before I came to school that I wanted to spend a semester out of the country. I was thrilled when I learned about the wonderful opportunities that Saint Ben's and Saint John's offers. When I began thinking about where I wanted to spend the semester I thought about what gets me excited. I am a history junkie and I enjoy learning about ancient history, art, and especially theology. I always hoped to travel to Rome so this program was a perfect fit. I was thrilled for the opportunity to study in Athens and I would not trade it for the world.

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

My time in Athens was full of joy and adventure. We traveled throughout the city of Athens and numerous islands and ancient cities. I loved each and every moment but what I will cherish most about Greece is the relationships made with the locals. I got to know so many of the bakers, professors, and people of Athens. One morning a group of my fellow women and I went for a run and we ran into an older gentleman sitting at a picnic table. We sat down with him and spent over 2 hours listening to him tell stories about his life in Athens. We met up with him 3 more times throughout the remainder of semester and each time we returned our stories got more and more personal. He taught us so much about Athens, family life, and his hopes for the future. I miss him dearly.

Rome was full of cultural experiences but one of my favorite afternoons there was spent at a Roma soccer game. It was an incredible experience to not only watch amazing athletes but to see relationships of the fellow Roma fans. I walked to my seat and was greeted with a hug and a mutual agreement of excitement for the game. I was shocked by the reaction of each goal that was scored. The place erupted. It was so amazing to see strangers celebrate and bond over their love for their team.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

I have been asked this question time and time again since I been back in the States, and my best answer is a combination of little memories. While we were in Greece we traveled to islands, through the middle of the mountains of Greece, and spent weeks living in and traveling to ancient cities. We all ran up and down the streets of Olympia celebrating a SJU football victory over St. Thomas. We all attended a Gregorian Chant concert at the Acropolis. And I will never forget about the late night gyro runs.

While we were in Rome we learned about the early republic, viewed priceless works of art, and we lived in the same city as the foundation of the early Christian Church. I saw the location where Julius Ceasar was killed. I saw the work of Michelangelo, Raphael, and Bernini. We were within feet of Pope Francis. I could talk about these major aspects of my daily life but my experience is summed up in the little moments.

There wasn't a day that I didn't laugh, see something new, or grow closer to my fellow Bennies and Johnnies on this trip. My overall experience was life changing. I do not anticipate a single day that I will not reflect back to my time in Europe. It was truly the best 4 months of my life. The lessons learned and friendships made will forever be near to my heart.

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?

There are so many benefits of spending a semester abroad. For me, personally, I think that the biggest benefit was gaining independence. If I would have told myself one year ago that I would have internationally traveled Europe alone, I would have laughed. The amount of independence and self awareness that is gained while abroad is an incredible opportunity. I learned how to recognize and take care of my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. This was challenging at first but as the weeks progressed I learned more and more about myself.

The academic benefits of studying abroad in Greece and Rome are endless. Over half of our class time was spent walking around ancient cities, temples, churches, and the streets of Greece and Rome. The amount of onsite knowledge that I learned is shocking.

I knew going in that studying abroad in Greece and Rome would change me and challenge me academically. I wasn't aware of the professional development that was to be gained by spending a semester abroad. It was crucial that I was detail orientated, aware of my surroundings, managed a budget, and was constantly soaking in new information that was being presented. Each of these aspects of my professional development while abroad have been put to practical use back in the States. They have all impacted my day to day life and will impact me for years to come.

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

The best advice that I can give to someone considering studying abroad comes from my good friends at Nike, Just Do It. Studying abroad will without a doubt be one of the most challenging and exhausting experiences of their life. It will push them to their limits but through these trials they will experience life changing moments. Just Do It. I would tell them that it is completely fine and expected to be a roller coaster of feelings. I experienced the excitement of being accepted, meeting my professors and group, and the liberation of purchasing my first first plane ticket. I also experienced the anxiety of leaving home, living out of a suitcase for 4 months, and traveling to countries that I did not speak the native language. I was terrified to leave but getting on the plane to Europe was easily one of the best decisions of my life. I would tell them to Just Do It. This experience has the potential to forever change them and it would be a shame to let it slip through their fingers.

I also kept a pretty detailed list about traveling tips and other fun facts about living in Greece and Italy. I would absolutely share my ideas and experiences with the new Greco-Roman crew.

Have any questions about studying abroad in Italy and Greece? Email Katrina at klsiebels@csbsju.edu