Finding The True Meaning Behind Study Abroad

Classmates and me in Piazza Navona, located in the city center of Rome.

Classmates and me in Piazza Navona, located in the city center of Rome.

Embrace Your Curiosity

When I moved into the dorms at the University of California, Riverside for my freshman year of college, it was the first time that I was in close proximity to people from varying backgrounds. There were students from the West Coast, East Coast, Canada, France, Norway, and Spain.

I overheard conversations that  flowed from English to French without skipping a beat. I was exposed to slang from various regions and introduced to delicious food that I now cannot imagine living without. After learning that the international students were here via an exchange program, I was curious as to how I could have a similar experience.

Make An Informed Decision

After speaking with a study abroad advisor, I was filled with motivation to apply to a program by the end of the year. I finally chose a study abroad program that matched my academic goals and submitted my application.

At the end of the school year, I received the good news: I had been accepted into a program in Rome, Italy for the following school year! This program would be the single most transformative experience of my college career.

The World Becomes Your Classroom

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. This was painted by Michelangelo at the turn of the 16th century.

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. This was painted by Michelangelo at the turn of the 16th century.

When I first arrived in Rome, it was an exhilarating sensory overload of foreign sights and sounds. Before I knew it, I was attending courses in Italian art, architecture, history, and film.

My favorite course was structured like an interactive walking tour and the professor guided us through iconic sites such as the Colosseum, Vatican, Roman Forum, as well as over 30 basilicas. All of my academic courses piqued my curiosity for Italian culture and reinforced my learning experiences outside of the classroom.

Program Takeaways

This program taught me various lessons that have been beneficial throughout my college career and beyond. After overcoming various language barriers, I am now a stronger communicator.

Travel mishaps and emergencies only made me more resourceful when things failed to go as planned. Additionally, my interactions with people from all walks of life made me more tolerant and understanding.

Most importantly, my entire perception of travel changed. Before studying abroad, I believed travel consisted of resorts, guided tours, and pre-packaged experiences. I now realize that travel is about making connections, gaining new perspectives, and overcoming challenges.

My host sister and I wearing traditional yukatas in Osaka, Japan.

My host sister and I wearing traditional yukatas in Osaka, Japan.

Keeping Study Abroad Alive

When I returned to university, I became inspired to work for my campus’ Education Abroad Office as a Study Abroad Ambassador to help other students have experiences like mine. I worked directly with students to help them choose an appropriate program, offer advice, and provide application assistance. I benefited tremendously from the guidance I received when applying for my program in Rome, so I wanted to provide similar insight to others.

I was inspired to continue working in international education so I took on an internship in Japan teaching English at various high schools throughout the country. I believe that when students are exposed to native speakers, it provides a necessary linguistic and cultural context to the language learning process. I lived with different host families during this experience, and as a result, had the wonderful privilege of cultural immersion in another part of the world.

Combining My Professional Life & Study Abroad

I am a huge advocate for educational, meaningful, and immersive travel experiences because travel has been a catalyst for self-development. My study abroad experience in Rome was the perfect balance of academics and real-life experience. I overcame culture shock and navigated a new and foreign language. My internship in Japan allowed me to join families, friend groups, and school staff who were all eager to show me their culture and learn about mine.

These international experiences presented me with challenges and hardships that transformed me into a more resourceful and resilient human being. After each trip I’ve completed, I’ve felt equipped with new knowledge and skills that I’ve added my toolkit and it is empowering to know that I can pull from it if a challenging situation should arise

Have you ever wanted to step outside of your comfort zone? Check out our custom programs page to discover how EdOdyssey can help make that happen!