Maria is an ambassador abroad in Italy and Greece
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I decided that I wanted to study abroad, because I wanted to gain a cultural experience that was unlike anything I would ever experience in the United States. Choosing which program I would be a part of was definitely one of the hardest decisions about the whole study abroad process, but I ended up choosing the Roman-Greco program because I liked the fact that I would have the opportunity to experience two different cultures in the span of the semester.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
A cultural experience that I had while being gone that left a lasting impression on me was going to the grocery stores. Something so simple as going to buy some toilet paper and Oreos could turn into an hour long experience, because product names were written in either Italian or Greek. We had to learn what certain words meant in order to determine whether we were buying shampoo or clothing detergent, and we quickly learned that detergent is not as effective as shampoo! Learning the different languages of the countries was difficult but very important in order for us to survive and flourish in both places.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Overall, I had an absolutely amazing study abroad experience. I couldn't have asked for a better group of CSBSJU students to travel with and definitely feel as though I've returned to the U.S. with another extended family. I learned so much about myself while being gone, and I am so fortunate to have had this opportunity to be a part of an amazing journey.
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?
I learned a lot about myself while I was abroad. I learned that I am very good with directions, but I don't function very well as a whole when I don't get a lot of sleep the night before. I learned that I am a picky eater but will always try the food set in front of me (whether or not I finish the dish is another story). Not only that, but I also learned what kind of role I play in big and small group settings. I always try and keep the mood light, but am eager to listen when one of my friends has something they need to talk about. I can be the leader when no one else has stepped up, but I prefer to hang back and observe more than anything. All of these things that I learned about myself helped me not only personally, but also academically and will benefit me in the professional world as well, since I will always be working with different types of people. This means that understanding myself and others will always be an important component for the future.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
My advice to anyone who is considering or planning on studying abroad is to go. No matter what, just go. If you're worried about missing out on things at home, I promise that whatever it is won't compare to the memories and friends you'll be creating while you're gone. If you're worried about not being able to afford it, try to find a way because the opportunity to go in the future will just get more complicated. If you're worried about traveling to a new country, the beauty that you'll experience of your host country and the independence and the confidence you'll gain will trump any insecurities you might arrive with.