Doing good for the world is something I have always thought was important and is an obligation. In fact, after I graduate I would love to pursue a career in social justice by working at a non-profit. I believe we must continuously act against oppressive structures in our society, especially my generation. This is why I decided to do the Global Leadership Certificate Program that SAI offers to their students in all of their study abroad locations. The Global Leadership Certificate Program, as you can read on their website is a program designed to give students a chance to gain something more from their host city, something more than just the usual study abroad experience, and also a way for SAI and students to give back to their host city that has already given them so much. Under the program, the student is required to do at least fifteen hours of community service, attend 3 lectures or seminars discussing global issues, meet with an SAI advisor about their experiences and leadership skills, write a research paper about a global issue, and keep a journal of all the intercultural experiences they are having while abroad. It seems like a lot but it’s actually really doable within a four month semester because you can schedule it out however you like (more info here).
I was planning on doing community service and keeping a journal about it anyway while studying abroad, so I thought that I might as well receive the global leadership certificate from SAI while doing it. I think it is very important to make connections in this way with your host city and culture.
Through my community service experiences so far, I have gotten to learn a lot more about the Italian culture and other co-cultures that exist within Rome just because of the diversity of a city like this. It has been a blessing getting to know other students who also come along to the community service either from John Cabot (my school) or from other universities like American University of Rome who are also highly interested in global issues and can have meaningful and engaging conversations with me about social justice and solutions to the problems we must resolve in society. It has also been a blessing to meet the people in the different communities I engage with.
For my community service hours, I have worked with different organizations, such as STAND, a club from John Cabot that volunteers at the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center in Rome. I have also worked with La Ronda della Solidarieta and Comunita di Sant’Egidio, which both provide food to the homeless in Rome. Already, I have had a lot of memorable conversations and moments with all these people, which I will not share here because obviously, they are very personal stories. These are experiences that you don’t get in the usual study abroad experience if you are not willing to put yourself out there into those communities and act for change. Plus, you get the chance to meet with an SAI advisor, and I have to say it has been great getting to talk with my advisor, Brie, about global issues and continue to learn so much from each other. Thanks Brie!!
I’d like to think that hopefully I am leaving an impact on these communities, but most of all, they are leaving an impact on me, which I will take away with me more than anything else from my study abroad experience. If you, yes you that is reading this right now, are thinking about studying abroad with SAI, I truly recommend doing the Global Leadership Certificate Program. It will make your study abroad experience even more enjoyable and eye opening.
– Maria is a Fall 2016 SAI Rome student from Saint Mary’s College of California