Did YOU study abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?
Julie: In 2007, I spent an unforgettable semester in Florence, Italy. My inspiration to go on this life-changing adventure began my sophomore year of college when I began volunteering as an international student orientation leader, also known as a “Gustie Greeter”. Through activities and informal get-togethers, I learned about students’ personal triumphs, struggles, and balancing American culture with their own.
These interactions helped me to realize that the field of International Education was where I belonged. I subsequently changed my major to Sociology and experienced studying abroad for myself. During my semester in Florence, I fell in love with life in Italy and challenging myself each day. Today, I couldn’t ask for a better position helping students achieve their own goals while better understanding who they are and what they are capable of at this crucial point in their education.
What unique qualities does your company possess?
Julie: The Umbra Institute is an incredibly dynamic school in a very special city. We want students to make the most of their time abroad while being immersed in the welcoming Perugian community that they can, and do, call home. At students’ fingertips are countless opportunities to be among the locals and experience Italian traditions coupled with the added benefits of a modern university town.
Another quality that makes Umbra unique is our foundation of support in every aspect of study abroad. We are a dedicated team of staff and faculty that really care about the students’ overall well-being here. From the minute we meet students at the airport in Rome, we are familiar faces. Our office doors are always open, allowing us to build a rapport with individual students.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
Julie: I believe one of the most incredible aspects of study abroad is that personal reflection and growth continues after returning home. We had one fantastic student, Max, who had never taught in a school before but had decided on a whim to sign-up to volunteer in the classroom to help teach English. On the first day, he was so engrossed in the classroom activities that he missed the bus home.
The next day, he recounted the adventure of getting back using his elementary Italian to ask for directions. He was beaming at how resourceful he had realized he was when the need arose. A few months after his semester at Umbra ended, I received an email from him in which he shared his plan to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English because, looking back, volunteering at the school was the most rewarding thing he had done while abroad. This is just one example of why I love my job coordinating these community engagement opportunities!
Why is language learning and cultural immersion important to you?
Julie: Although I had never studied a foreign language until studying abroad, I was always intrigued by the power language has to open up a new place and a new people to you. It acts as a key to understanding another way of thinking and feeling and expressing oneself. Umbra requires students to take an Italian language course which demonstrates how valuable we view language learning for students abroad.
The importance of being able to succeed in everyday tasks such as ordering food, going to the post office, and speaking with local people is priceless and empowering. It gives you a sense of daily accomplishment with every encounter. Even today, after years of living abroad, I still feel this way; I can connect with the people through Italian that I may not have been able to communicate with otherwise