SAI caught up with Grace, who reflects on her semester in Milan.
What does your study abroad experience mean to you?
At first, study abroad was just a way for me to travel more. It was always an expectation of mine as my sister studied and lived abroad and my mom left Ireland when she was 18 to travel the world and found a new home in America. It was just another way for me to see more of the world but then it became so much more than that. I made life-long friends that I hope I will always keep in touch with and learned so much about other countries and different cultures. I actually ended up staying in my host-city of Milan more than I thought I would just because I loved it so much and the people I was surrounded by. I’m so thankful for my study abroad experience and the growth it’s given me as a person!
Share an example of how your international experience has improved your skills in communicating with others. Before studying abroad, I was less confident in my communication skills which is not good considering my major is Public Relations. I’ve struggled with social anxiety for a while and was always lacking in self-assurance especially when addressed in professional settings. But near the end of my time in Milan, I could tell I had become much more outgoing and discovered a new-found confidence. When I decided to stay longer to attend summer courses, I was asked to be a summer mentor. This meant that I had to give presentations to new students attending Università Cattolica for the summer and help students with any questions or concerns they may have. I ended up successfully giving a presentation to over 100 study abroad students – which a few months ago would have given me a nervous breakdown/made me puke. It’s safe to say my international experience helped give me more confidence in my communication skills as well as my career choice.
What was your favorite class abroad and why?
I really enjoyed taking A Mafia Story: Its Representation in Literature, Cinema, and Television. I originally took it because I was conducting a scholarship research project on how the Italian media portrays and the public perceives refugees and nonprofits aiding them and learned that the mafia was heavily involved in the crisis. In order for me to get a better understanding, I needed to know more about the mafia and how it impacts the human rights crisis and the Italian media’s relationship with the issues facing immigrants and asylum seekers. I learned a lot about organized crime and was curious but disappointed to see how it has become a glamorized pop-culture phenomenon through movies and shows such as The Godfather and The Sopranos.
What was my favorite memory from study abroad?
One of my favorite memories was attending Milano Fashion Week with my friends. It was my second or third week there, and one of my friends asked if I’d like to try to sneak into some of the shows with her. I quickly obliged and we managed to get into 3 or 4 shows by waiting in the press line and claiming we were “fashion bloggers.” One of the best parts was Anna Wintour passing by us outside the Versace Show and meeting Pat McGrath. We made memories I will never forget and it was the perfect start to an incredible study abroad experience!
What travel tips would you give someone studying abroad?
I would advise to definitely plan out trips far in advance in order to have time to decide what you want to see and do. At the same time, it’s also okay to veer off schedule – some of the best memories made from my travels were unplanned. Also give yourself plenty of time to make it to the train, plane, or bus. Trust me – I learned it the hard way.
Grace was an SAI Milan spring 2018 student from University of South Carolina.