The decision to study abroad brought Abigail to Rome, Italy trying to navigate a new life in the crowded streets of a major world city. Read her advice on how to survive if you’re about ready to take the study abroad leap.
Abigail Eisenbrei is an ISV Blogger/Writer intern currently attending Walsh University in Ohio. She wrote the following article for International Student Voice Magazine. Be on the lookout for more of her articles!
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? Maybe someplace exotic, where you try new foods and experience nature, or somewhere beachy where the sand can sink in between your toes and you lay in the sun all day, or perhaps a place that you know nothing about, where you can immerse yourself in the foreign culture, learn a new language, and practice a diverse lifestyle. Wherever you travel, whether it is that sandy location, somewhere in the States, or even abroad, there is always the excitement of going somewhere completely new and different. Travelers prosper in diversity and relish in a change of scenery. When cultures change from place to place, country to country, it is exciting to adapt to a culture different from your own and become one with the location you are visiting.
Experiencing a culture in this way is so important that many articles, books, and travel advice columns are written about adapting to a different culture when visiting your fantasy destination. However, what happens after you leave that exotic atmosphere? It is important to not only embrace a culture different from your own when you are away from home, but it is also important to bring parts of that diverse lifestyle and the experiences you had while you were away, back with you when you return home. By embracing a different culture after returning home, a traveler continues to learn and grow through their experience even after the plane has landed in their home town.
This past fall I had the opportunity to take part in Walsh University’s study abroad program. I traveled to Europe and lived in Rome, Italy for two months with fellow Walsh students. During this time I was able to travel to Assisi, Venice, Florence, Sorrento, Pompeii, and Paris, France. Every day was a new adventure, filled with new experiences I will never forget and love to share with anyone who will listen. When first arriving in Rome, I was scared out of my mind. I could not speak Italian, I had no idea how to use the train or underground subway system, and I was sure that I would get lost everyday. Living in Canton, Ohio, and never having left the United States, I lived a very sheltered life. Therefore, when studying abroad in Rome, I was completely aware and amazed at how different the lifestyle and culture was in Italy compared to what I was used to seeing and doing back home. About two weeks into the trip I began to warm up to the fast paced, assertive, proud, and confident city of Rome. I began to leave behind the shy tendencies that governed my lifestyle. This wasn’t necessarily because I wanted to, but because I knew that I couldn’t be shy in a city filled with people who were strong willed, determined, and focused. In order to survive in Rome for two months I too had to take on those assertive qualities, and in a word…mature.
I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to travel to Rome because the experience, the adventures, and the people enabled me to take on personal traits that I always wished I could possess. While I was away, I learned to vocalize my thoughts and opinions, be on my own, and the overall confidence of being who I am. These acquired traits are great additions to my life, but studying abroad also helped me to realize the importance of my family and faith. Most crucially, I learned to see the world and all its people outside of the perspective of my own life, and realizing that there are people in the world who need acts of charity and compassion.
For Chelsea Cochrane, a sophomore student at the Ohio State University, experiencing a different culture and incorporating into her life back home began at an early age.
“When I was in elementary school I lived in Paris with my family for a summer,” Cochrane said. “My mom was sent to France for work, so my dad, brother, and I spent the summer with her in Paris. The trip was amazing, and it helped me to experience a world different from my own. Ever since then I have always been aware of a life outside of my own personal bubble.”
This great learning curve feels fantastic when you are in mid travel, but the struggle is to remember these revelations after returning home. Focus on what you appreciated while traveling, and try to incorporate those aspects of the culture into your life. By taking what we have learned while traveling home with us, including the food, the clothes, the traditions, the stories, the personal revelations, and other bits and pieces of the culture, we continue to learn and grow from the experience and we enable others to learn and grow as well. It is great to immerse yourself into a new country when traveling, but to bring the experience home with you can change the way people of the world view cultures different from their own.