What’s on your mind?

By Megan Bernatavitz
February 11, 2010

Shannon Keough

Last semester I took advantage of the study abroad program offered at Cabrini and it was the best decision I have ever made. It takes a lot for a person to leave their comfort zone. Leaving your family, friends and, most importantly, the food options America has to offer is extremely difficult.

If I were to give any advice to college students it would be to study abroad. Try something different, decide on a place that interests you and go for it. I guarantee that you will never be given this opportunity again. I admit I was all talk about going abroad until I realized that if I didn’t go, I would regret it for the rest of my life.

It is important to decide on a place that means something to you. I chose Italy because my grandmother grew up in Italy and I grew up listening to stories about her childhood, all the places she went to and what her family life was like. Deciding to go to Rome was an easy decision.

When I arrived in Rome, I went to visit my grandmother’s sister and immediately immersed myself in my heritage. I met relatives that I never knew I had. Though the language barrier was a bit of a challenge, the experience was one I would have never had if it weren’t for studying abroad.

Another reason why studying abroad was such a great opportunity was because of all the traveling I was able to do. No matter where you decide to study, everyone travels. When in Europe, I only went to two other countries, England and Spain. Instead of going to different countries, I thought I would learn the culture of Italy, so I traveled throughout Italy. I started out traveling on the weekends through the beaches of southern Italy and gradually made my way up through Tuscany.

Where else are you able to see the statue of David, shop for handmade Italian leather, climb Piazza Michelangelo (overlooking all of Florence), go wine tasting and take a cooking class, in one weekend? The trips that I took on the weekends still shock me.

Being able to immerse yourself in the culture is the most important thing to take away from studying in another country. Living outside of Rome, not many people spoke English, so it was essential to learn the language. Yes, it gets frustrating at times, but coming back from a country knowing the language is not only a great accomplishment but also looks great on a resume.

While abroad you also have to be open to trying new things. When I was there I was unsure about what I was eating half the time; it may have looked odd but every single thing I ate was delicious. I also hopped on the wrong bus on my first day in Rome-not to mention I was by myself. It ended up being a great way to sightsee.

The study abroad experience was something that I will always remember. I am extremely grateful that my parents were able to send me to Rome for the semester. The friendships I made while I was abroad was my favorite part of being in Italy. I was able to travel and immerse myself in other cultures with these people I had never met before. They made my time in Italy the best experience of my life.

Most importantly, I came back a different person. Before I was content with the isolated world I lived in. After coming back I am ready to see what the world has to offer and hope to live abroad, whether it is helping in underprivileged countries or working in Italy, I know that the study abroad experience left me wanting more out of life.

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Megan Bernatavitz

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