This past week I was trying to catch up with a friend through text messages and she brought up how her daughter, who is now 15, always talks about studying abroad and she likes to motivate her by telling her that I did it and loved it. Back then, it seemed dumb because of the way the engineering curriculum was set up so that I had to take certain classes in order and they were not offered both semesters but I was determined to study abroad even if it meant an extra year in school and taking out a considerable student loan. To this day, I think that was one of the best decisions I ever made and only wish I had done a full year abroad!
I knew that I wanted to study abroad since I was in elementary thanks to having an older sister that had grand dreams of seeing the world. I don’t even know how my older sister knew that was a possibility, our parents had emigrated from Mexico and that was the only place we ever travelled to and for the sole purpose of visiting family. While they always pushed for us to go to college, they didn’t really know how to guide us in that process so how to get there or do anything extra all depended on us figuring it out. Thankfully just by encouraging us to dream big while teaching us responsibility and hard work and with the help of amazing teachers we were able to go to college and continue our dreams. While I loved my college experience at St. Mary’s University, it would not have been complete without my study abroad semester at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy.
I can’t even begin to explain how experiencing life in another country as I had just turned 21 helped me grow. Sure, I had left home as soon as I finished high school but going to school 8 hours away from home was still very safe. Due to family reasons, I wasn’t able to make it to orientation so once I finally arrived to Rome, I was supposed to find my own way to my accommodation for the night and then to John Cabot University the next day, ready to start classes. Of course (so as not to worry them more), I didn’t tell my parents that no one from the university would be at the airport to receive me but I was confident I could figure it all out even when I didn’t know the language.
The first evening in Italy when I bought the train ticket, got off at the right place and was able to take a taxi to my destination (all with my practiced Italian phrases) is when my confidence really took off. After that day, not only was I fully submersed in a different culture and was learning a new language, but I was also meeting people from all over the world at my new university. One of my favorite things during that semester was that between my 4 roommates and I there were 6 languages spoken in our apartment. This global perspective allowed me to realize that even with different cultures and languages we are all still very much the same.
I love this post on “Why Experiencing a New Culture is Good for You” and couldn’t agree more with the following conclusion.
There’s no question that travelling to a new place and enveloping yourself in a new culture is going to change you. It’s a transformative experience that subjects you to a host of new situations. These conditions and moments changes the way you think, the way you act and the things of which you’re capable. Ultimately, there’s no escaping how these foreign experiences will shape you for the better.JRPass.com
If you have the opportunity, please travel and be open to other cultures. There is so much to learn from these experiences!