Right before beginning my first year of university, I learned I was going to spend my first semester of freshmen year abroad at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy. I won’t lie, I was quite nervous when I first heard the news. I’m originally born and raised on the small island of Puerto Rico and had never lived away from my family or hometown, so the idea of gaining my independence so far away seemed quite foreign.
Once as my journey abroad began, all my worries about the experience went away. As soon as I arrived in Rome for the study abroad semester, I quickly understood that my time abroad at JCU was going to be a journey of self-growth and adventure filled with valuable lessons.
Student Support at JCU
I had never felt more accepted by an academic institution. From the moment that I arrived at JCU, they did everything in their power to make me feel welcomed. I was immediately showered with a wide variety of academic resources and student support services that they offered to all students.
JCU’s staff truly made an effort to get to know my interests and let me know of activities or clubs I could join on campus. This created a comfortable environment for me as a freshman student from abroad. Before I knew it, everything that seemed foreign and overwhelming to me before turned out to be beautiful walks throughout the Eternal City, authentic Italian food, extremely friendly neighbors, and a unique learning experience that I will never forget.
Living and Learning like an Italian
JCU’s curriculum and beautiful facilities were unbelievable to me; I was learning about different cultures and environments from locals in Rome, projects with students from all over the world, onsite classes, and insight from highly-skilled professors. One of my favorite courses at JCU was my Italian language class. Being able to learn the Italian language while living in Rome will forever be one of the most enriching experiences of my life. My professor was delightful and fostered a friendly, curious, and inclusive classroom environment. We would often take trips to local Roman markets and shops to learn how our vocabulary terms are used in real life. This type of hands-on learning encouraged us as students to talk to locals and test our own knowledge.
At JCU, we were taught to live like locals and truly immerse ourselves in the unique culture we were learning about. My friends and I would exclusively eat Roman food (and attempting to perfectly pronounce dish names in Italian was included in this experience). Of course, we never said no to gelato trips, visited museums and local markets, traveled to nearby Italian towns on the weekends, and took advantage of every opportunity we were given to get to know more about Italy’s rich culture and history.
Expand Your Horizons While Studying Abroad
This is the best advice I could give any student considering studying abroad at JCU: do it! Take advantage of all that JCU has to offer students, travel to new places, immerse yourself in new cultures, create a new routine, learn to explore, and meet new people along the way! Remind yourself every day how lucky you are to be where you are, recognize that you’re doing something incredible and experiencing something out of the ordinary, and be proud of yourself for the challenges you overcome and live in the moment.
One day, you’ll be missing the simplest things of your time abroad; whether that is going grocery shopping or taking a quick walk to the Colosseum, you will always carry these moments with you and Rome will always be a part of who you are. I know there’s a piece of me in every corner of Rome and I’m forever thankful for my time at John Cabot University.
Daniela Olazábal Scala
Study Abroad Fall 2019
Major Business, Minor Psychology