What does your study abroad experience mean to you?
When people ask what my study abroad experience means to me, it’s nearly impossible to accurately put it into words. It was truly the first time in my life that I was put into an unknown environment and had to find the tools within myself and around me to figure it out. SAI was the best thing that could have ever happened to my study abroad experience. Every step of the way was organized and structured but I still had the flexibility to figure things out for myself. I felt a newfound sense of independence and curiosity that has impacted my life for the better. The culture, food, friendships, and memories are all things that I will remember forever.
What was your favorite class abroad and why?
While abroad I took an Intercultural communications class— which ended up being one of my favorite college classes I have ever taken. The professor was so invested in his students and expanding our knowledge on communication among cultures. A large portion of my class was from the U.S but there were students from Turkey, Serbia, Egypt, Israel, and the rest from Italy. Having such a diverse group of individuals helped me better understand other cultures and practices from their first hand experiences as well as covering these differences in class. I found it to be a very interesting and applicable class to every day life, which made it that much more important.
What advice do you have for new study abroad students?
Advice I would give to future study abroad students is to go in with an open mind. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the culture, people, and newness that surrounds you, but be open to exploring! One regret I have is not doing enough research on places and activities around me. Going to local events and exhibits was the best way to see a city and interact with locals. Rome was too big and bustling to have been able to cover all of it, but making an effort to try new things or go to different areas is the best way to start. You are out of your comfort zone so make the most of your time while you’re there and take advantage of all that is around you!
Do you have any tips for learning the language while students are abroad?
The last tip I would give is to be familiar with the language. It is ok if you are not anywhere close to being fluent, but having an idea of key phrases or words is very helpful. Duolingo is a great place to start! Trust me this will come in handy when figuring out simple things like directions or items at the grocery store.
Immersing yourself with locals or taking a language class there would be the best way to gain firsthand experience, but this is not always possible with schedules. You can learn a lot by sitting and listening to locals interact when possible.
Olivia was fall 2018 Rome student from Saint Mary’s College of California.