The scariest moment of my life (and study abroad experience) was leaving my parents at the airport in Minneapolis the day I departed for five months in Rome. I was studying abroad by myself and it was my first time traveling alone. Luckily, the moment I landed at Fiumicino, I met a girl who was also studying abroad at JCU on the way to baggage claim. That girl ended up being my roommate and the person I spent the rest of my time with while abroad.
The main reason I decided to study abroad by myself was to get out of my comfort zone and learn new things about myself. The first two weeks were tougher than I thought they’d be. I definitely experienced culture shock. Everything was so different than it was the US. I didn’t really know what to expect. The language barrier was the hardest thing about my study abroad experience. I learned a few phrases before leaving, but I hadn’t realized how much I would really have to know.
After the first three weeks, I finally got into a routine and learned the ropes around Rome. I developed relationships with all of my roommates and friends from classes, which made my time abroad much more meaningful. I was fortunate enough to travel to eight different countries and meet amazing people. I was even able to visit my relatives from Italy who live in Soriano, whom I had never previously met. It was a special experience that I am grateful I was able to do. Communicating involved a lot of simple words and hand motions… but there was amazing food and I was in great company!
Getting around Italy forced me to learn the train and public transportation systems very quickly. I fell in love with the beauty and food that Europe has to offer. My favorite thing about traveling was taking the trains through Tuscany; it was nice to get away from the big buildings of the city and see the countryside. Every time I traveled out of Italy, I got more and more excited to get back to my (temporary) home. Rome is full of colors, life, and breathtaking buildings and sculptures. Words cannot do it justice; it is impossible to even try.
My family also came to visit me during my last three weeks abroad. I was starting to get homesick, so it was such a relief and so comforting to finally have them there. My brother Marco studied abroad at John Cabot 5 years ago and minored in Italian. It was fun sharing both of our favorite spots in Rome with our parents.
Returning back to the US was another culture shock that I wasn’t expecting to have. After 5 months away, it was bittersweet, but I felt more than ready to come back. Confrontation with the familiar felt weird. I changed so much, but home stayed the same. I was used to traveling most weekends and living out of my suitcase. I wasn’t used to driving and going to stores like Target or malls with endless products to choose from. It was quite overwhelming.
Looking back, I miss so much about my study abroad experience. I miss the friends that I met, most of whom I still stay in touch with via social media. I miss the gelato from San Crispino. I miss the food and the coffee. I miss the winding cobblestone streets. I could go on and on…
I wouldn’t change a thing about my study abroad experience. I grew up so much and I couldn’t be more proud of what I accomplished during my time abroad. I became more independent and gained a lot of confidence. I enhanced my foreign language skills. I can’t wait to come back and visit! I still talk to all of my roommates and we reminisce about our time studying abroad; it’s fun to share pictures and stories. I am so thankful for this experience. I miss everything about it.
I would definitely suggest that other students study abroad for a semester or a year at John Cabot. And as a tip, learned from experience: spend some time learning the language! Finally, choose some on-site classes like art or art history – there is nothing like standing in the middle of what you are studying and experiencing it firsthand. Immerse yourself in the city!