Alumni Spotlight: Stephanie Wichmann


Stephanie is a high school Intervention Specialist and a fitness instructor on the side. She loves traveling and experiencing new cultures!

Why did you choose this program?

I was accepted into multiple programs but I chose this one in particular because I was (and still am) very interested in the Italian culture. My family is from Greece, so perhaps because it’s a similar culture, but I wanted to experience it and the people within its borders. I also wanted to experience a culture I’d never experienced before and meet completely new people.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

They organized the apartment, teaching arrangements, and transportation. They also organized meals. I only organized my flights and weekend trips during my stay. I felt very comfortable with the arrangements and I felt everything was well organized. At no point did I feel stressed or frustrated with the organization.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Be open-minded and have FUN! Things will be different from what you’re used to, in regards to food, meal times, sleep times, language, etiquette, and so much more. That’s a good thing though! Have fun with all of the changes and just go with the flow. Change is good for the body and soul, so embrace every moment!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

An average day consisted of waking up early, eating a simple breakfast such as cereal or toast and espresso, teaching at camp for four hours, eating a HUGE home-cooked Italian meal, napping for three hours during “siesta time”, walking around town, getting dinner, and going out for a glass of wine with my roommates and co-teachers. It was a blast! Many days we would skip siesta time and take a train to the beach and soak in the sun.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was not knowing the language. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to ask for simple things, such as “Where is the bathroom?” Or “Can I borrow your phone?” I overcame this by looking up some key phrases and conversational tips online before going, but my co-teachers were very helpful too in helping me learn. I would always ask them about lingo and how to say certain things, and they were always more than happy to help. By the end of the trip, I could speak in full sentences, order my coffee at the cafe every morning, and ask random people questions. I’m now so much more comfortable going to other countries and I know now that it’s a learning process.

How did the program affect how you live back at home?

I am a high school Intervention Specialist for an Autism Unit in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am constantly thinking of new ways to support and differentiate for my students, and this program taught me to be a better teacher in regards to that. When you’re faced with a language barrier and ten students staring at you, you come up with ways to work around the barriers and have fun. This helped me become a better teacher and person.