We recently caught up with SAI Ambassador Dana, who took some time to answer questions about her semester in Rome.
What did you learn about yourself when you were abroad? How have you changed?
Being abroad has definitely changed me for the better. However, I did have anxious beginnings. I was nervous about being abroad by myself, leaving friends and family for an extended period of time, and things not going right while I was there. Once I arrived in Rome, I realized my concerns were completely unfounded and that nervousness was just a temporary roadblock. I was able to make lifelong friends, experience new and interesting cultures, and learn that I am much more independent than I thought I was. Immersing myself completely in this experience showed me that traveling alone is possible. As I gradually gained more confidence and attained necessary skills, I could successfully navigate unfamiliar cities. Reflecting on my experiences abroad makes me realize that I am more open minded, adventurous, independent, and confident than I was before I left.
What advice do you have for new study abroad students?
As a study abroad student, it is extremely important to keep an open mind, be flexible, and stay organized. I would like to encourage other students to take risks, challenge the unknown, and expand their comfort zone; always expect the unexpected. Initially, it may not be easy, but your confidence will gradually expand and world views will change and magnify. When abroad, not everything will go exactly as planned; mistakes will be made, schedules will be changed, and communications will be challenged, but it is important to adapt and embark on this journey with an open mind and heart. In addition, you should try your best to meet and learn from as many locals as possible, and travel to other cities (and countries) to discover the wide diversity and uniqueness of other cultures. The opportunities for learning and personal growth are endless.
What does your study abroad experience mean to you?
Studying abroad was a life changing and rewarding experience. Traveling to Rome allowed me to grow as a young adult, meet people with different cultural backgrounds, and learn to take chances. When you go abroad, you have so many opportunities to learn more about yourself and grow as a person. This experience was so meaningful to me because I knew I may never have this exact opportunity again. Being in a foreign country with new friends and having the ability to go to a new location every weekend, was exceedingly rewarding. Now, when I look back on my semester abroad, I applaud myself for being self-assured and adventurous enough to take a challenging leap because, in the end, it was beyond worthwhile.
What is your most memorable interaction with a local in your host city?
Throughout my semester abroad, I had several memorable interactions with my photography professor, Professor Amato, who was local to Rome. He is someone who comes to mind when I think of a genuinely happy person. He was kind, patient, generous, and extremely passionate about photography. In class, that passion and love for photography radiated from him. He was carefree in class, constantly dancing or singing to us to help us remember various camera functions, and willingly took us on adventures around the city just for the purpose of finding the perfect photo. Although English was not his first language, he made sure his students understood his explanations before proceeding, and was completely apologetic for his limited English. One day, Professor Amato asked my class to follow him to a local store where he bought bunches upon bunches of bananas to photograph. His message to us was that a beautiful photo is always attainable no matter what the subject is. This is one class experience I will never forget. Because of him, I left each class smiling and laughing because of how much fun it was to learn photography from a passionate and selfless artist. Professor Amato is only one of the many amazing Italian people who come to mind when I think of their happiness, generosity, and carefree lifestyle.
Dana was a spring 2018 SAI Rome student from St. Norbert College.