Caroline West

Caroline checking out the Colosseum for the Good Friday 12 Stations of the Cross...a beautiful night!

Caroline checking out the Colosseum for the Good Friday 12 Stations of the Cross!

Caroline studied abroad in Rome, Italy at Richmond University. She recently graduated from the University of South Carolina, and is currently employed as a nurse in an intensive care unit.

Where did you go to school?

University of South Carolina

When and where did you study abroad?

Spring, 2011: Studied in Rome, Italy, at Richmond University.

What was the BEST part about studying abroad?

One of the best things about studying abroad was that I lived in Trastevere, and passed the Vatican every morning on the way to class. I certainly experienced “la dolce vita” while I was abroad, and never stayed in my apartment for more than eight hours to sleep! :) I made friends from all over the country, and memories that would satisfy a lifetime. I also became a regular at more than one cafe, and learned the importance of espresso and croissants. I also pushed my camera to the limit with the amount of photos I took every day.

While I was abroad, I traveled to Santorini, Greece, and Paris, France like it was casual, and learned Italy like it was my home state. I fell in love with the Italian culture and its people, and also with Italian cinema thanks to a class I actually paid attention in while living there! I coped with the death of a parent while roaming the Italian streets and learned to lean on friends, make new ones, and learn to respect the world we live in! Studying abroad was truly the best experience of my life, and I wish I could turn back time and do it all over again!

What did you learn about the rest of the world from studying abroad? What did you learn about yourself from the experience?

I learned that the world is big and the United States is very small – we think we are the center of the world, yet we aren’t. There is something about Italy and Italians that makes you think you have gone back in time. The pace is slower in Italy than it is in the Deep South of the States…and that says a lot. Italians are active, warm, engaging, and loud. They don’t care who you are, they just care that you are eating and drinking, and that you appreciate where you are.

I also learned that different cultures can live side by side; going to Paris on a short four hour flight and greeting a French culture was intriguing, refreshing, and challenging. I learned that Italy will always be my home base, but Paris has my heart too. In studying abroad and visiting places like Santorini, Venice, Paris, etc. you truly grow attached to cities as if they were people. In the U.S., it’s not the same. When I return to Europe, it will be like meeting an old friend.

What was your BIGGEST challenge while studying abroad and how did you manage to handle it?

Personally, I was dealing with the death of a parent immediately after I arrived in Italy. While I was in Rome, I dealt with some pretty difficult homesickness. However, I learned the importance of discovering myself and truly getting to know who I am and I how I cope with new experiences, good and bad.

Studying abroad throws new languages, new people, new culture, and everything else new you could imagine. You truly become aware of what you are capable of and how strong and resilient you actually are. Language is hard, but learning the people is harder. It’s truly up to you to decide how hard you are willing to try and make the experience a learning experience and not just expect everything to come easily to you.

My biggest Italian challenge was trying to filter through the Italian men! It’s not a joke…they wear a lot of cologne and they will profess some serious love to you, even if they have just laid eyes on you. It’s flattering, the first two times…then you’re seriously missing those American boys who are bashful and won’t talk to you for a few weeks because they’re nervous. I definitely learned to be ready for some hardcore flirting from those Italian boys!

How did studying abroad change your life?

I am now a nurse in the ICU. I wish I could say that studying abroad had a direct impact on my job every day, but it doesn’t. However, it did give me some perspective on people. Going abroad and spending time with people that don’t know my language is different, and it’s cool to have such a cultural experience.

On the flip side, human beings really aren’t that different at all. Just observing students in Rome on a Friday night, it’s clear that they act/talk/play the same way Americans do. Humans laugh, learn, cry, get irritated, angry, and love essentially the same. It was such an eye opening experience to realize that I am unique as a person, but as a human being, I am not alone nor am I in the center of the universe. I loved just spending time with people from different countries and learning how their life experiences and their country’s culture has shaped them different ways…not to mention the other American students from all over the States I became friends with! In being abroad, I learned that the U.S. is so diversified that meeting  fellow Americans and learning  about their lives was a fun and interesting experience.

What are your future plans?

I graduated from the University of South Carolina in May with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. In July, I took a job in Greenville, South Carolina as a nurse in Medicial/Surgical ICU. Life is good!

What’s your BEST piece of advice for someone who is thinking about studying abroad?

Don’t hesitate. Yes, it is expensive, but school is expensive in general. It’s a lot easier to pay off loans for an experience that you loved and that really changed you life. Studying abroad honestly changes your perception of the world and your perception of others, and ironically, it gives you a great sense of American pride. There is no country better than the other, that’s a pure personal preference. No matter where you go, you will go the rest of your life knowing that you were able to live independently in a foreign country. You walked streets everyday that are older than your entire town. Life is sweet abroad and all you have to do is say YES! Home will be there when you get back!

Andy Steves

Andy grew up traveling with his dad and writer, Rick Steves. He studied abroad in Rome, Italy while at the University of Notre Dame and then founded the travel company Weekend Stu[...]

Top 10: Rome, Italy

In the 3rd installment of our Top 10 series we're returning to Italy for the top 10 things to do and see in Rome (plus a few extra honorable mentions)!

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