The Small Choices
Collin, Spring 2024, Rome
May 9, 2024

Outside of the Capitoline Museum in Rome

As my time in Italy ends and I reflect on all the amazing people and experiences I’ve been part of, I can say without hesitation that it has been something I will carry with me throughout my life. At the end of classes, I started to think back to all the preparation that went into studying abroad, all the choices that led me to decide to travel and live a world apart from my own. It’s funny how the smallest choices can compound over time leading you to unexpected places. Entering university, I had no plans of committing to a foreign language, much less Italian. I still remember the conversation I had with my advisor the summer before the start of my freshman year. I had a late registration period and was unable to continue my Spanish classes for the general education requirements. He said that I should take Italian since it was like Spanish. I agreed and unbeknownst to me it would spur an amazing series of trips that taught me more than I had ever hoped to learn.

Sunset over the small Italian town of Camogli, Italy

On the very first day of Italian class, like many students required to take a foreign language, I thought to myself all I needed to do was gain a basic idea of the language to pass the class. I never dreamed that I would make it a central point of my college education. After a semester or two of having the same Italian professor, and finding myself surprisingly enjoying the courses, he approached me and recommended that I pursue a minor. I considered it for a while and thought that it would be a great way for me to enter international business, a career field I had been considering. Looking back, I’m thankful that I made the decision I did, a decision that seemed somewhat peculiar at the time, as it pushed me to consider studying abroad.

Since I was interested in international business with a focus in Italy, I jumped at the chance when a new business central study abroad program was introduced at the University of Tennessee. Although it was a short-duration program, the things that I learned left me wanting to go back. Around this time, UTK started to offer a new second major in International Business that paired with an existing major and stressed a foreign language. The part that caught my attention was that to complete the coursework you needed to study abroad. Almost without hesitation, I signed up with the intent to go back to Italy. After much planning, I decided on John Cabot in Rome where one of the most incredible semesters I could imagine began.

View of Rome from Castel Sant’Angelo

When I first arrived in Rome, I felt for the most part comfortable. I was familiar with the language and culture which kept me from experiencing any true culture shocks. What I did come to find out much later, though, is that I was able to reach a depth with the country I don’t think would have been possible otherwise. I spent my time in Rome with a mix of seeing historical sights and places and simply living in a new environment. It allowed me to go from feeling like a tourist to someone who had lived there for many years prior. Even during the most mundane activities, like getting a haircut or going out to eat, I met new and fascinating people who shared their traditions and lifestyles with me. I got a firsthand lesson on everything from food and the language to tips on new places to visit.

Recreation of a Roman Villa at Pompeii

When reflecting on my time abroad, what stands out to me the most are the people and the immersion it allows you to have with your host country. Sure, I spent a lot of time doing touristy things like traveling to new countries and having a camera roll full of photos, but the more I think about it the more I realize those were all things I could’ve done on any number of vacations. Studying abroad is one of the most unique and special experiences you can embark on. It allows you to learn more about the world and by translation yourself, than I believe any other college program. This of course was all enhanced through SAI’s Global Leadership Certificate through which I was encouraged to volunteer and engage with the community to an entirely different degree. In the many years to come, I believe Rome will always feel like another home – full of stories – a home that came to be from one small choice.

Written by: Collin, Spring 2024 Rome student from University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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