Experiential experiences, like studying abroad, can really open a person’s eyes to the world. For me, it was no exception! Since I was a young teen, I had the bug for travel; during college, I decided to study abroad! I chose Rome, Italy because I knew nothing about my Italian heritage. While I grew up in a Mediterranean lifestyle, it was predominately Greek more than Italian. In my home, the cultural traditions and customs of the Grecian lifestyle took over as I was sent to Greek school (language classes), Greek dancing, eating and baking Greek cuisine and pastries, and celebrating the wholesome and beautiful culture of the Greeks.
My mother is Italian and I wanted to know more about my Italian heritage. At the time precluding my study abroad experience, I was working at a hotel for almost three years saving every nickel and dime I could. Those nickels and dimes really added up as I saved almost $10, 000 of my own money to go towards my study abroad experience in Italy. For months, I read travel books, planned and budgeted for trips on long weekends, and wanted a wholesome experience where I was really part of the culture. I made copies of my passport and visa, copies of my credit and debit cards, and wrote down important numbers and kept a file filled with important information for my parents, just in case anything went wrong.
Being a first-generation college student and graduate, the chance to study abroad in addition to getting a quality education was like winning the lottery for me (but without the financial perks!). I worked hard saving money, planning and budgeting, and being responsible by carefully researching and reading all I could to prepare for my experience abroad. I also made sure I was mentally and emotionally ready for a five-month separation from my comfort zone, my family and friends. I truly believe a large part of the preparation process that students do not often prepare for is the separation, therefore resulting in homesickness, depression, and other various mental and emotional occurrences. I prepared by telling myself that I will be back to the USA, that I will stay in contact with my family and friends, that Rome is going to be my new home, and preparing through research and being responsible.
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