Diane studied abroad in Rome, Italy. She is currently finishing her last semester as an undergrad at Quinnipiac University and will study abroad again this summer in Budapest, Hungary.
Where do you go to school?
When and where did you study abroad?
Fall 2011, AIFS Richmond in Rome, Italy
What was the BEST part about studying abroad?
I was a very sheltered girl from a small town in NJ and I also go to an incredibly small school in a small town in Connecticut. At first, I thought that the transition from a small town to a huge city was going to be overwhelming and terrifying, but it ended up being better than anything I could’ve ever imagined! Rome is an enchanting city where you can find something new on every corner. Even though my apartment was 30 minutes away from my university, I still walked every single day.
Passing by the old monuments and relics that I had read about throughout my childhood was absolutely amazing and it NEVER got old. I eavesdropped on the locals and tried my best to keep up with their conversations – to brush up on my Italian AND to figure out all of the local hot spots. I met new people from all over the world and found a new cafe, shop, or restaurant to fall in love with on a regular basis. I became a regular at a restaurant just a minute away from my apartment – the waiter even knew my name and exact order! I taught him English and he taught me Italian…I found that the best part of being abroad was simply exploring and finding new things that I would never be able to find at home. I could live in Rome for 100 years and still never truly see everything; there’s something new to discover in every corner.
What did you learn about the rest of the world from studying abroad? What did you learn about yourself from the experience?
Over my time abroad, I learned to embrace every culture and truly dive into each one. Because while we’re all very different, we’re all very similar as well. Many cultures worldwide share the same values. We all have hopes for our future and for our families. Everyone has a passion and we all want to pursue our dreams! Whether that be by showing off your dance moves on the streets of Champs d’Elysee in Paris or sharing your artwork on the streets of Florence or even baking homemade delicious treats at Oktoberfest in Munich. I found that I had a dream of my own as well – to see the world! While I was abroad I saw 6 new countries and over 15 new cities. It opened my eyes and made me realize how big the world is! And how small I am.
What was your BIGGEST challenge while studying abroad and how did you manage to handle it?
There were a lot of little things that challenged me, but the most challenging thing had to be being sick while I was abroad. We often take for granted what we have; at home I’m blessed to have a mother that has worked in the medical field for years and often don’t need to go to a doctor unless it’s really serious. When I’m at school, I’m just a 3 hour drive away that my mother or I don’t mind making. While I was abroad, I didn’t have that luxury. Nor did I have a doctor that could diagnose me in English. My roommates and I caught an awful flu virus in mid-November…
None of us were quite sure what to do, considering all medications were unfamiliar and in another language! We all stayed in the apartment, made ourselves tea, and practiced our best Italian to try to get ourselves medicine at a local Pharmacy. Our landlord sent a woman to clean our room every Saturday morning and she liked sending us away for the day so she could clean peacefully. That morning, we put a (pretty poorly written) sign in Italian on our door saying, “We’re sick and must sleep. Thank you.” We’re not even positive it was correct, but I’m pretty sure she got the idea because she left us extra blankets!
How did studying abroad change your life?
Being abroad taught me a lot of things – appreciation, respect, strength, but overall independence. I realized that I rely on my parents a lot more than I should as a 20 year old. I grew up a lot – I learned how to cook, I looked after myself, and I was able to manage my money better. My confidence was also boosted after studying abroad! If I can hold a decent conversation with an Italian businessperson, then I can definitely hold an American one. I am not too shabby at navigating myself through large cities anymore and I can dominate any Metro system.
What are your future plans?
I am currently a senior at Quinnipiac University finishing up my Bachelor’s in Advertising and Public Relations. I’m also in the 5-year MBA program, so I’ll be here an additional year. The program includes a mandatory abroad course, so I’ll be traveling to Budapest this summer for a couple of weeks and could not be more excited!
What’s your BEST piece of advice for someone who is thinking about studying abroad?
My best advice would be not to be afraid; of exploring, of traveling alone, of ANYTHING really! It all seems so scary, and you might even feel vulnerable being in a different country and so far away from home. But do NOT let that keep you from diving right in. I found that my best trips are the ones I took solo. Walk around and go places you’ve never been before! (In the daytime, of course). Don’t get mad or afraid when you get lost, because getting lost is truly a blessing in disguise! You find some of the best places and meet some great people when you get lost.