We caught up with SAI Ambassador Kirsten, who took some time to answer questions about her time in Rome.
What did you learn about yourself when you were abroad? How have you changed?
I have always thought of myself as a shy and reserved person and did not like to branch out much. This all changed when I stepped out of my comfort zone, traveled alone from Haiti to Tampa where I go to the University of Tampa, then to Rome. This was a double study abroad experience! I was forced to communicate with others in order to find my way. Because I also did not know anyone in the program or the city, I was forced to befriend people from my school and I do not regret it at all. It was an opportunity to meet amazing people from all over the world and really helped me to become more open minded and comfortable with others. I am thankful to have been given this opportunity to study abroad in the United States and in Rome, it really shaped me and changed me for the better.
What was your favorite thing to do in your host city?
EAT! One of the best things to do in Rome! I got to eat the most amazing pasta and gelato. It was always fun for me to go out exploring and try out different things in little restaurants I stumbled upon all over.
What travel tips would you give someone studying abroad?
PACK LIGHT! I traveled to Europe with three suitcases, a carry-on and backpack and in retrospect I can tell you that it was TOO MUCH. I did not use everything that I brought and it was a waste of space as I could not buy a lot of things from places I visited. It was very inconvenient and I wish I had packed less things. It was extremely hard to carry all my things alone.
What advice do you have for new study abroad students?
Be open. Do not be afraid to try new things or talk to new people. That is what this experience is all about. Try out different foods even if you do not like them. Befriend people who are not like you, you learn the most from them. Visit as much as you can and get out of your comfort zone, you won’t regret it. Also when planning trips, do a lot of research; consider all your different options and don’t go for the first one you see as there is probably a cheaper way.
What has your experience taught you about the world?
My experience taught me that there is so much to see and discover. There is not a dull place in the world. Even the smallest towns had amazing history and great things to see. So get out there and visit any place that you can, known or not, you will learn something.
Do you have any tips for learning the language while students are abroad?
Take a class if you can and practice talking to people in the streets. If you want to ask questions or directions, ask in the country’s language and not English. Try to read in the language as well and look up any words that you don’t know.
Kirsten was a spring 2018 SAI Rome student from the University of Tampa.