Freshman year always comes with great anticipation and is certainly nerve-wracking, but deciding to spend it on a different continent, thousands of miles away from home, opened the door to many new possibilities. I was excited to immerse myself in a new culture, a new language, and new experiences. My excitement was complicated by corresponding moments of doubt and fears of whether I could actually do this. Listening to my friend’s mom as she worked to convince my mom not to let me go the night before I was leaving certainly didn’t help. Nor did the painful realization that Google Maps does not really know all the peculiarities of ancient Rome, as my mom and I were lost for what seemed miles and hours on end.
In spite of these challenges, I quickly came to learn that the best thing about new adventures is that there are no guarantees, no promises, no objective answers. This is your experience; you make of it what you will. Studying abroad, especially in a city like Rome, brings about the opportunity to connect to a new part of yourself, to soak in new experiences, and to adapt to an unfamiliar lifestyle.
My decision to study abroad was not intentional: I did not initially even consider spending my first year of college in Europe. Yet I will forever see my year at John Cabot University as a blessing. The University offers many opportunities to introduce new students to Roman daily life and helps you become involved in the community. From the beginning of my preparation for life as a freshman student, the staff was so helpful in ensuring I had everything I needed to arrive in Rome. Upon my arrival, I had a mentor who I could ask about anything: what to visit next, what events to attend, what classes to take.
My first semester, I was fortunate to be enrolled in an on-site art history course. Although a three-hour class was a bit of an adjustment, looking back, I see it as one of my best Roman experiences. Today as I walk through Rome, the Forum and the Ara Pacis are not just beautiful old buildings, but powerful insights into the history of Rome and its people. I love being able to tell my friends fun facts as we walk past these monuments while on new adventures. This kind of class allowed me to better immerse myself in the city I live in. I was able to connect with history and value the significance of places most people pass by without recognizing their importance.
The second semester has allowed me to engage in global conversations through my two political science classes. Discussions and debates as part of those courses reflect what I think is the most valuable aspect of studying at John Cabot: classrooms are filled with students from various countries, cultures, and backgrounds. As an American from Los Angeles, my perspective and viewpoint is often colored by my life in a largely liberal and Democratic urban city. Discussions in my courses have exposed me to varying opinions that allow me to look at issues from different angles. I find myself intrigued by the difference in views held by others in my same age group and recognize that the places they were brought up and their cultural background influences their beliefs, as they do mine!
Comparing experiences with other study abroad programs where you study and live only with Americans, I am so grateful to have had an experience that truly immersed me as a member of a global community. These discussions have confirmed that my decision to study abroad is the best thing I could have done for my freshman year. As I approach the end of my year abroad, I know I continue my journey with friends all over the world cheering for my success.
My advice to new freshman students: Embrace getting lost, because it gives you an opportunity to explore new areas. Try the unknown because it might lead you to discover one of your favorite new things. Question, question, question because the answers might lead you to new outlooks and extraordinary experiences. Live fully because there is no other time like right now, where you are. Studying abroad allows you to grow into a strong individual, to become a global citizen, and to discover your amazing self. I highly suggest you come to Rome and “do as the Romans do” and get a taste of la dolce vita.
Study Abroad 2016-2017 academic year
Major: Environmental Studies
Hometown: Los Angeles, California