Nicole Cornell 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?
Since entering college, I knew I wanted to study abroad. I had never been outside of the U.S. when I came to college and college seemed like the perfect opportunity to make it happen. I had no doubts that the Greco-Roman program was the one for me. My biggest dream in life was to be able to visit the Vatican and see the Pope. Additionally, I really wanted to be able to experience Rome during the liturgical season of Advent, so naturally I wanted to be in Rome the second half of the semester. With these two criteria in mine, the Greco-Roman program was the perfect fit for me.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
The most lasting experience I had involved me going out of my comfort zone. The education abroad center in Rome encourages students to take the opportunity to volunteer throughout the city of Rome and get to know locals on a level that is different than a tourist or student. I decided to volunteer by myself at a nursing home, helping the residents make Christmas crafts. I had expected the residents not to speak English and I knew enough Italian through classes to get by. However, when I showed up, no one in the entire facility spoke English at all. Therefore, I really had to rely on my ability to communicate who I was and why I was there through the little bit of Italian I knew already. Even though this was a challenge, I loved every minute. All the residents of the nursing home loved having me help out for a few hours and they didn't care that they couldn't speak to me and I to them, they simply loved me being there with them.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
It was amazing, to put it short. I learned a lot about myself, different cultures, and different histories. I wouldn't have traded my semester abroad for anything else.
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?
The largest benefit about spending abroad is the ability to learn about yourself. I know that I benefited from my time abroad by learning how to navigate unfamiliar surroundings on my own, going to places that I may want to visit but no one else and being okay with that, and generally how to live on your own - food, clothing, academics, free-time. In this way, it contributed to my personal development. As far as academic development, one really learns to develop excellent study skills. It can be easy to put off studying because, hey, you are living half-way around the world and there is so much else you can do, but learning to buckle down and study while managing time to explore is a great skill. For professional development, I gained skills such as cultural awareness and diversity awareness while learning to adopt, understand, and respect a different culture than my own.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Plan, plan, plan. Every step of the way, make sure you are planning. This starts from picking a program that is right for you, to make a packing list weeks in advance, to even budgeting your weekly expense. Personally, for me, money was something of great concern while abroad, but taking care to budget how much I could spend each week relieved the stress of running out at the end of the trip. I would also suggest working over the summer before going abroad to save up money and applying for any and all scholarships that apply to you.