Four years ago, I took a leap of faith and applied to a university that was more than 4,000 miles away from my home in New Jersey. As a newly-minted 18-year-old, I packed my bags and moved to Italy to attend John Cabot University—an American university in the center of Rome. I am writing this as I enter my last semester of college and let me tell you, it has not been easy, but it has been worth it. I would not trade this experience for anything. Let me tell you a little bit about how all of this came to be.
JCU is an American liberal arts college that is Middle States accredited – just like any other stateside university. This means that the degree that I will receive this coming May is equivalent to one I might have received had I stayed in the United States for college.
In my senior year of high school, John Cabot was one of the first schools I really researched in depth. I applied to just over ten schools, but I gravitated towards JCU for some reason. It just felt like something I just had to pursue. High school graduation was coming quick and a decision had to be made. I had to weigh the pros and cons before making what would be one of the biggest decisions of my life at the time.
Would I be missing out on the “traditional college experience”? How do I learn to be an adult in a foreign country when I’m not even an adult in my own country? Would I be lost in a country where I don’t speak the language? This would surely be a difficult transition, but was it worth it? (Spoiler alert: yes, it was.)
Fast forward to the present. I have so much to say about my time abroad, but here are just a few things I have learned from this unusual and exceptional college experience so far from home:
Living in a new city is scary, but you never know what is just around the corner!
Since moving abroad, I have learned so much about myself and the world around me. I have relearned simple tasks like how to order a coffee—I mean cappuccino, how to go grocery shopping, what to wear out so I fit in with Italians, and when to nap during the day—specifically from the hours of one and four when people across the city are taking their daily siesta.
While it was hard adjusting to these things, I was able to adapt and thrive. I act like a local, give directions, and “do as the Romans do”. This does not just apply to Rome though. Studying abroad can improve language skills, promote tolerance, and enhance cultural awareness.
The first time in a foreign country can be scary, but Rome is unlike any city in the world—beautiful, mysterious, and perfect (well, perfect for me). I have gotten lost in the streets of Rome my fair share of times, but I always seem to get lost in the right direction: around each and every corner is something amazing.
Making friends can be hard, but making friends from all over the world is fantastic!
I have also met a whole lot of wonderful people since arriving in Rome four years ago. The kind of people you just want to tell everyone about! The kind of people that teach you love, empathy, and true friendship.
The cool thing about having friends from all over the world is having friends from all over the world! Being immersed in such a diverse university gives me the opportunity to learn about other cultures and, in turn, learn about myself.
I have had the privilege of learning something from each person I have met. I believe that everyone I meet has something to teach me, I just have to open my mind. Meeting and really making an effort to learn from other people is an invaluable skill that one can learn while studying abroad.
Living far from home is challenging, but it does get easier.
In my opinion, the toughest part about going to school abroad is the distance. I cannot hop in the car to come home for the weekend, and the 6-hour time difference can make keeping in touch with people back home difficult. But it is not impossible. It gets easier. I’ve learned to make time for loved ones and to also make time for myself.
The level of independence and responsibility I have reached is extremely empowering. Since moving away from home freshman year, I have become an entirely new person, with new goals and a new outlook on life. I am not sure that I would be the person I am today if I had not taken the leap to study abroad.
My experience is just one out of the many people who have studied abroad.
I believe everyone should study abroad—if they are able to do so. When I say “study abroad”, perhaps I mean everyone should try to step out of their comfort zones to see somewhere else that is different from what they are used to. Whether it be out of state, country, or continent, seeing how other people live and immersing yourself into that new way of life can have a plethora of benefits.
Over the years, people have asked me over and over, “Why did you decide to go to school so far from home?” I think I have finally figured it out: I am meant to be somewhere else. I don’t know where that is yet, but how will I ever know if I stay right here?
But maybe “somewhere else” is not just one place. It’s Rome and New Jersey and maybe a million other places. This experience is my chance to see as much of the world as I possibly can and that’s exactly what I plan to do.