How has this experience impacted your future?
Amie: From what I experienced, being abroad is one of the best things you can do for all areas of your future. Living in another county not only gives you an inside look into that specific culture, but also opens your eyes to better understand other cultures different from your own. You get to see not only the differences (big and small) but also the things that are the same, which is sometimes more interesting honestly.
Academically, studying in Rome was the best thing I could have done for my degree – being able to leave the library and study things like the Pantheon or the Colosseum up close and personal was a breath of fresh air (quite literally) and really made my studies come to life for me. Sounds corny, but it’s the truth! It has also broadened my interests and giving me more concrete ideas about what I want to do with my life post-graduation. Employers, graduate schools, etc. will recognize all this and it might just give you the edge you are looking for.
Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.
Amie: One of my classes, “Ancient Rome and its Monuments,” was an on-site class, which means the only time we were in a classroom was for the midterm and final exams. The rest of the time we met somewhere in Rome— sometimes a museum, sometimes a monument –and that’s where the lectures happened. Cool? Very.
We each had to give a presentation about a monument or topic that we selected. So one day I gave a presentation about gladiators and their training schools… standing in front of the Colosseum. I’d say that beats a power point any day.
What did SAI do for you and what did you need to do on your own?
Amie: One thing that I really appreciated about SAI was that they gave you an enormous amount of help, especially at the beginning, but in a way that let you figure things out for yourself. They didn’t hold your hand, but they didn’t feed you to the wolves either. One thing that was incredibly helpful was that they met us at the airport and brought us directly to our apartment, which would have been really intimidating to do on my own.
The orientation was also very helpful, giving you tips and tidbits about Italian life and culture that helped you understand what was going on around you. They gave you a list of grocery stores and a map, but they didn’t take you there personally. Things like that I really appreciated. They also gave you a lot of information on how to work the public transport in Rome, which was extremely helpful. After orientation they mostly left you to do your own thing, but they were always available to answer questions.
What is one piece of advice you'd give future SAI students?
Amie: The one thing I would do over before studying abroad is learning the language. I knew coming into this that my Italian was pathetic and that I would have a lot to learn, but I think I expected it to be a lot easier to pick up. I learned quite a bit and it was easy enough to get around because a lot of people know English, but there was definitely still a language barrier.
I really wish my Italian had been good enough to at least have simple conversations with new people I met instead of relying on their English. This is also the one piece of advice I would give to people looking to study abroad – if you are going to study abroad, attempt to learn at least the basics of the language before going and make an active effort to improve your language skills while you are there.
You will have not only a better cultural immersion experience, but you will also not feel as intimidated by foreign situations you find yourself in. That being said, English is the universal language. No matter where you are, chances are someone knows a little English. So don’t let that be the reason you choose to not study abroad.
Tell us about any interesting cultural tidbits you noticed about your country. Do you feel you got a chance to see the city from a local's perspective?
Amie: I do feel like I got to experience Rome from a local’s perspective. Part of that was because since you are in school, you fall into a daily rhythm pretty quickly and it all just starts to feel like normal life. You get to know things like the grocery stores, the piazzas, the fresh markets, etc. that tourists don’t go to.
I really liked the limbo between resident and tourist because I got to see all the great monuments and sites Rome has to offer, but I also got to know the gelateria next door and my favorite fresh fruit vendor down the street. I also liked being able to shake my head and roll my eyes at the mobs of tourists that swept the streets of Rome on a daily basis, because even though I was clearly not Italian (the bright blonde hair is a dead giveaway), I was not a tourist either - which made me feel just a little bit like an Italian.