I studied abroad through the Ivy College of Business at Iowa State University. We got to use the College of Design's building in Rome, which was really cool to experience. The experience I had was very relaxed and business-based, so I got the opportunity to visit many different businesses in Italy and different locations each weekend that we didn't have schooling planned.
The most valuable learning experience I had while in Italy was that your instincts will get you further than you would expect. I know everyone says listen to your gut, your instincts know what's best, but not everyone always knows what that means nor how that works. While I was in Italy, we had a lot of free weekends to travel, and because not everyone had the same items on their list to go and see, sometimes we were traveling to different places alone. (We all kept in touch and tabs on each other for one's safety.) But during one of my trips, I visited Naples. Naples is always described as gorgeous and a place with the best pizza, but I was just there for a tiny bit of time waiting for my train to go back to Caserta, where I was spending the weekend. So I left the train station and did some exploring of Naples. As I was walking around Naples, something in the back of my head told me that something was off and that I shouldn't be in Naples by myself at night, so I made it my mission to return to the train station before dark. The whole time I was there, I couldn't shake that feeling of this isn't where I'm supposed to be. After 4 hours of exploring and making it back to the train station before dark, I got back to the train station right as what I would consider chaos erupted in the streets. I learned that night was a futball game in Naples against their biggest rival, and if you don't know much about soccer and Europe, it tends to be very chaotic and can sometimes lead to fights. My body knew that it wasn't safe for 5'1" me to be out there with all of that, and I knew to follow that gut feeling. I ended up being safe and didn't have any issues, but I know that sometimes we forget to follow that voice and can get into some very scary situations.
The most memorable experience from my trip to Rome was probably my first weekend in the city. After almost an entire week of being in the hustle and bustle of the metropolis that is Rome and the tourist season, I was slowly starting to get used to the chaotic nature of the city. What I didn't know was that on Sunday they were having the Tour of Italy, a large bike race, going through the heart of Rome. So early that morning, I got up and made my way to Vatican City because one of the items on my bucket list was to be blessed by the Pope, and I didn't want to spend too many weekends in Rome, hence why I did it so early on in my trip. I walked out of our apartment and onto the streets of Rome, and there wasn't a single car in sight; it was strange but almost blissful at the same time after how chaotic it normally is. So, on my first Sunday in Rome, on my way to the Vatican, I was walking down the middle of a four lane road without a single car and just getting to look at the architecture. It was very peaceful and made the city feel more magical than it already was.
What did you not expect?
One thing that surprised me was how comfortable I got in Italy and how much it made me realize that while I want to travel and see new things, I can't imagine living anywhere but in the US. All the things I saw were magnificent and beautiful, but I ended up comparing them to places that I had seen here. As someone who is coming closer to my time at ISU, I realized that I have to start thinking about where I want my professional and personal life to take me. I realized the little things of how I've grown as an adult in Italy and how they've impacted my life once back in the US. It made me realize that I have the ability to be comfortable no matter where I go or whether I know anyone or not and still be able to be myself while still having the ability to grow.
What advice would you give?
For other students who want to study abroad, there isn't anything I know that I can say to get you to take the plunge into going abroad. You have to know yourself and be able and willing to take the plunge all on your own. While I can say it's worth the time, stress, and experiences, before you ask about the stress, know it's part of traveling and learning new things. Having the little travel bug inside of you starving for adventure and something new will be the reason you go. Everyone has different experiences, and different stories from their times abroad. But the best thing you can do for yourself is ask at every opportunity, "Am I willing to take this plunge?"
How has this experience impacted your life?
This experience made me remember how much I want to travel in life and gave me the opportunity to grow as an adult away from the things I'm comfortable with. It reminded me about being adaptable to the things around me and taking things as they came, which, as a planner, can be hard. This experience impacted my personal goals by making me rethink all my bucket list locations that I have always wanted to travel to and seeing how I can handle traveling, whether with friends or by myself. Educationally, it helped me get several steps closer to my goal of graduating since my program offered two classes that are required business classes within Ivy. As for the long-term career goals, this experience made me think of different careers that I can seek as a student to try and get opportunities to help plan destination trips and/or have the opportunity to travel through my career.
How did you learn about this experience?
I first learned about this international opportunity in my BUSAD 102 class, which is an orientation class like AESHM 111 & 111L. They brought it up briefly when Taylor, the business stud abroad advisor, came and visited our class.International Connections