*Why did I travel overseas? (How did I choose an organization to go overseas with and what values were important when I was looking)
While I entered college immediately after graduating high school, I remained local, spending my freshmen and sophomore year at Johnson County Community College. This was the community I had grown up and grown comfortable in; I had a small but strong network of friends and professional connections. However, before digging my heels in to the last two years of my Bachelor’s degree at the University of Delaware, I decided to seize the moment and capitalize on that time of transition. I wanted to experience an education and culture that would inspire me in the rest of my studies. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and differentiate myself from the pack. I followed my passions in academia to the International Education Office at my school where their multiple resources gave me an array of programs to choose from in my field. Under the advisement of Barbara Williams, I discovered the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program. This was a program that supported one’s own personal journey abroad rather than provide a set outline for what you had to complete. I found the program I wanted to join with the Lorenzo de’ Medici Institute, and the Gilman Scholarship gave me a way of realizing it.
*What were your biggest fears when going in-country/what were your biggest fears upon returning?
Traveling abroad was the first time I had been truly out on my own as an adult. I was anxious to be so far from my supportive network of family and mentors. I was young and still coming into my own as a developing professional in my field. I wasn’t sure I knew how to talk to or network with people I didn’t already have multiple connections with, let alone show an adequate mastery of their language. However, once I was there, I was so excited to explore and itching to get involved. I even traveled out of my host city with my new friends using public transportation, foreign currency, and conversing for the majority of the trip in Italian!
*What lesson, skill, or understanding have I gained in the preparation, in-country, or re-entry process?
I used my study abroad experience as a learning tool in many aspects of life when I returned to the USA. It prepared me for living on my own across the country from my home; setting both short-term and long-term goals for myself and my future; and most of all, taking myself, my academic life, and professional life more seriously. You don’t notice how walking into a foreign country with only your language skills and charisma to rely on builds your character and confidence until you’re back in your familiar state.
As far as traveling goes, I packed light since I knew I would have access to shopping and laundry facilities in-country. In truth, getting there was the hardest part! I could not sleep on the first 15-hour plane ride over the ocean, so I was a zombie walking around an airport in France when I don’t speak a word of French… People were very friendly though, and I found my way to the gate I was scheduled to leave from after 2 hours of searching and accidentally going through security twice. I was very scared of missing my flight or someone stealing my stuff, but I managed to get in a few hours of sleep in a chair-bed I concocted before the 2 hours flight into Italy. My only tip for traveling would be: buy the one-way flight!!!
*What additional advice would you pass on to other travelers?
I am always open to questions, even now now that this trip is over! Studying abroad by yourself can be a harrowing thought, but I promise to help ease your fears and offer you some tools for making your dream a reality.