Spending a month in Italy and receiving college credits was an opportunity I could not pass up. However, being a commuter and a pretty big homebody, I was nervous about making the decision to go. I am so happy I did.
I studied at the American University of Rome in Italy. I went through the International Studies Abroad program for the Summer 1 term. There were a variety of different Rome programs for Summer 1, but Rider’s very helpful Center for International Education worked with me and helped me pick the program that suited me best.
My program was four and a half weeks long (May 26 – June 27) and it included taking two classes and going on two weekend excursions. Housing was provided, so I stayed in an apartment with five roommates.
Leading up to my trip, I was a nervous wreck. I had never traveled by myself before, let alone to another country, and I had never lived with roommates besides my two sisters. It turned out that these things that I found most unnerving are what made studying abroad so great. I learned a lot about myself by being put in these situations that were out of my comfort zone. I became much more independent and outgoing.
I was the only person from Rider in the program so I didn’t know anyone going into it, and because of that, I think my experience was that much better. I really came out of my shell and befriended many people in my program, something I maybe wouldn’t have done if I had already known someone. In the short time I was there, I became close with all of my roommates, who were from different states, except one who was also from New Jersey. These friendships are different from the average friendship. We started in the same position. We did not know anybody, we were in a place where we all had never been before, and we all wanted to make this the best experience we would ever have. Being in the same circumstances as one another really brought us together and when we all left on the last day, it had felt like we were saying goodbye to people we had been friends with for years. If I hadn’t studied abroad, I would not have experienced this growth as a person and formed these friendships.
Another reason studying abroad is great is that it gives you the ability to look at things with a new perspective. The traditions of a foreign country are totally different from America, and being able to make those comparisons really made me appreciate the contrasting cultures. In my Art of Rome class, we walked around Rome for the entire class period and learned about different monuments while standing right in front of them. They included the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Caesar’s Grave and the Temple of Hercules. It was amazing. I developed a new appreciation for art and learned a lot more than I would have if the class had taken place in a classroom. I wouldn’t have been able to take a class like this back at home.
Lastly, the most obvious reason to study abroad is to go somewhere new. We’re young; we don’t have that much to worry about right now, and when else are we ever going to get this opportunity again? Pick somewhere you never thought you’d be able to see in your lifetime, and go there. I promise, it will be life changing. Experiencing someplace new opens the mind and every single one of your senses. I did not miss one thing the whole time I was abroad, from the delicious food to the amazing sights and sounds. I paid close attention to every single detail because it was all new and exciting to me.
I went to places that looked like they were out of a dream. I stayed in Rome, but I went somewhere new three out of the four weekends I was there. The second weekend I went to Cinque Terre, which is five cities on the northern coast of Italy all connected by a mountain range. This was a trip I made with a few of my friends; it was not one of our included excursions. We planned the trip ourselves. We went hiking while we were there, something I would never have done if I hadn’t been in Italy because I’m terrified of heights. I was so glad I did because I saw some of the most breathtaking views. The third weekend I went to Florence and Tuscany. I saw the Statue of David, a historic statue I thought I’d only ever see in textbooks, and drank some of the best wine in the world. Also, the last weekend I went to the Amalfi Coast, which is where my heart remains.
If I can offer any advice, it’s just go. Don’t let anything hold you back. The study abroad experience is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that should be taken advantage of. It will change your life, like it has mine, in the best ways possible. Get out of your comfort zone, have experiences you never thought you’d have, make life-long friends and see a positive change in yourself. You’ll be happy you did.
Junior digital media major
Printed in the 9/4/13 edition.