As my college career came to an end, I frequently spent my time musing on the best experiences I had in the last four years. While I had many fond memories on my college campus, I realized that the most fun I had was during my time abroad. Coming from a family that has always valued the importance of travel, I could not wait to study abroad the summer after my first year of college. I did not have a set location in mind, but I knew I wanted to go somewhere new so I chose to go to Italy. The study abroad program I chose was unique in the sense that I did not have to sit in a classroom for four hours a day, five days a week. Instead, my professors took my classmates and me to 34 different cities in Italy and gave lectures at some of Italy’s most famous sites. Listening to their lectures in front of historical sites and getting the opportunity to explore these sites on my own afterwards helped me gain a new appreciation and better understanding of Italian history and culture.
Going abroad made me realize that sometimes, reading about history in textbooks does not quite give you the complete picture of what happened. When you travel overseas, you get to stand in places where history was made. When I stood inside the Coliseum in Rome and looked around, I could almost imagine watching Italy’s strongest gladiators ride their chariots into the arena and hearing loud cheers coming from spectators. Reading a simplified summary in a textbook or learning about the battles that took place in the Coliseum from a lecture would not have had the same powerful effect on me as seeing the ruins in person. When you visit historical sites like the Coliseum, you get a more fulfilling learning experience because you get to see it with your own eyes. By actually being on the actual site where history happened, you get a more complete understanding and a better appreciation of the past.
Of course, studying abroad is not all about learning because when you are in a different country for a long period of time, you begin to immerse yourself in a new culture. You may read or hear about how amazing gelato, wine, pasta, and cheese are in Italy. However, if you do not actually visit the country, you will never know how different these things taste like in Italy. The benefit of travelling overseas is actually getting to experience these amazing flavours and eating gelato, pasta, and cheese made from fresh and local ingredients. Coming back home and eating the same things just were not satisfying. Although I do get sad and overwhelmed with disappointment whenever I eat mozzarella and gelato in the US, I am glad that I had the opportunity to taste real mozzarella and gelato in Italy. Realizing that I could not taste the same flavours back in the US, I gained a new appreciation for food in different countries.
Even though travelling overseas might seem daunting at first because of language and culture barriers, I found that stepping out of my comfort zone made it easier for me to relate to others by immersing myself into a new culture and experiencing art, history, and culture on a first-hand basis. Looking back on my time abroad, I realized that I gained a different perspective of the world, learned to appreciate other cultures, and probably would not be the person that I am today. For that, I am grateful for the opportunity I had to study abroad in college.
This guest post, Study Abroad: An Eye-Opening Opportunity, is by Nina Truong from College Tourist
Nina Truong is a senior double majoring in International Studies and Film at Emory University from Scottsdale, Arizona. Unable to resist her love for travel, she spent the past three summers studying abroad in Italy, England, and Germany. She is a self-proclaimed navigator and enjoys pretending she knows the streets of foreign cities but really fearing for her life that she doesn’t get the group lost. When she is not worrying about directions, she is constantly on the prowl for her next meal.