Jared Kahan

Jared took this photo of the Ponte Vecchio on his way to class. No. Big. Deal.

Jared studied abroad in Florence, Italy.  He now works as a Program Assistant for the Short-Term Abroad Programs at George Washington University

Where did you go to school?

Arizona State University

When and where did you study abroad?

I studied abroad for the Spring 2010 semester in Florence, Italy.

What program did you go on?

AIFS

What was the BEST part about studying abroad?

The best part of studying abroad in Italy was its proximity to the major European cities. On any given weekend, I could easily be in Barcelona to eat tapas, ride an overnight ferry to the Greek Isles, or gasp upon the greatness of the Swiss Alps. While studying in Florence, I gained a new passion for traveling and seeing new parts of the world, to immerse myself fully in a foreign culture, picking up bits and pieces of the language and trying to live with the same pace as the city operates with. I was very fortunate to travel to many different places, and it really opened my eyes to a completely different way of living then the one I was accustomed to in the U.S.

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

The biggest challenge for me while studying abroad was trying to curb my enthusiasm for everything and realize that I was not going to be able to do everything that I wanted to, or go everywhere I had dreams of going.  It was a sad, sad day when I realized that neither my bank account or my academic duties allowed me to spend every meal at another small, family run Italian restaurant, or to front another 300 euros for a weekend trip to Paris.  But I think, in its own way, it was a blessing in disguise, as it made me appreciate every opportunity I had that much more, and soon I relished those nights when my roommates and I would cook an Italian family style meal ourselves (wait, Chicken Parm isn’t really Italian…?) Also, not doing EVERYTHING the first time gave me motivation and a clear goal to return to Florence and Europe as a whole, to come back and travel and see more of the beautiful cities and delicious food that exists in the rest of the world.

How did studying abroad change your life?  How did it help you? What did you learn? Did you gain any useful life skills? How do you think it helped prepare you for your career?

Studying abroad is one of my defining moments. I found a passion for travel that I never knew I had.  I have a sense of confidence that I still carry with me due to my struggles, and the tackling of, learning to travel independently.  I have experience, real experience, navigating around a completely foreign city, in a completely foreign language, with nothing but a paper map, intuition and a burning desire to see more, to do more and to live more.  Socially, I still talk with my study abroad friends constantly, as there exists a special connection made from traveling and experiencing new places together with someone. My friends have seen me completely out of my element, with only my core traits and raw skills to get me through and that intimacy is hard to replicate in other settings.  Finally, my interest in studying abroad has not been limited to just a passing interest. I  am a currently a Program Assistant for the Short-Term Abroad Programs at George Washington University.  I love to share my experiences and passion with other students, giving them their own life changing travels.

What are your future plans?

My future plan is to work as a study abroad advisor.  I love being a resource for other people, especially in their travel goals and aspirations. I have worked in the industry for about a year, having moved back to Florence to work for a student travel agency, and I really feel my best contribution to students will be to assist them in their plans for traveling.  Everyone has different motivations and reasons for wanting travel abroad. For some, it is to see the world; for others, it is resume building.  Maybe someone needs to get away from what they know. Everyone may go abroad for different reasons, but I believe that everyone goes through a transformation because of it. They may not realize it right away (I was fortunate to realize it immediately), but the experiences someone has traveling, meeting people from around the world, seeing new (and oftentimes very very old) sites has a lasting effect. I just want to get them there.

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

Be honest with what you want out of a city, a program and an experience. If you want to learn the language, skip the apartment with other students and do a homestay. You’ll learn more about the true culture of a city and the people that way. If you want to study Renaissance art, well its not going to be in Barcelona (think Florence, duh). Be true to what you actually want to accomplish. If you are looking to live in a big city and want to see if you can crack it in the rustle and bustle of a metropolis, go big or go home. London, Rome, Shanghai. Don’t get peer pressured into something you don’t want to do in regards to the city or program. Obviously cost is a major factor, but there are financial resources out there; do your homework and figure it out. And finally, just do it. Just. Do. It. You won’t regret it, hell you will be singing its praises by Day 2.

 
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