Sarah Pilut

Major: Apparel, Merchandising, and Design
Class: Senior
Timeframe: Spring 2022

Overall Experience

My overall experience was amazing. I met some fantastic people from different schools and countries, all while being able to experience a different culture. I would suggest anyone who is thinking about studying abroad just to do it. I was hesitant but wouldn't change my decision to go. I learned so much more about the world around me than I think I would have if I decided to not go. Some places I visited were out of a postcard I was sending home. I met so many different people from different schools within the United States, but in my classes, I was able to learn from students from Italy, France, Turkey, Spain, and so many more. Each one gave me an insight into their own different experiences. It as well challenged me a lot and made me comfortable with being uncomfortable in my surroundings. I feel like I also learned so many more communication skills and problem-solving skills than I would in a regular classroom.

Learning experience

The most valuable learning experience I encountered was learning strong communication skills. I learned that communication is the most important skill you can have. I was in a class where I was the only American student. We would have group projects due every week and I would be paired with students who sometimes didn't speak English. When that would happen I would have to think about ways to communicate with my group partners. Communication is key and without it, it caused problems with turning in assignments or distributing work. I learned that sometimes it's best to over-explain. With that, I now feel my communication skills are rounded in many ways I don't think I would have learned at home. It challenged me in ways I didn't know were possible.

Memorable experience

The most memorable experience I had was being able to visit Paris, France. Most importantly was being able to go to the very top of the Eiffel tower and see its sparkle for the first time. You never realize how small you truly are in the world until you travel. Seeing the Eiffel tower sparkle for the first time I thought back to when I would watch Paris on tv shows or movies like Sex and the City, Casablanca, Monte Carlo, or Sabrina. It just showed how much there is to see out in the world and experience. I felt like I was in a movie experience and being able to see something outside of Italy was amazing as well. The students in my class were from France so they gave me recommendations on things to see, eat, and do so we were not so touristy walking around.

What did you not expect?

Something that surprised me was not everyone knows English. Even though it is a universal language I would have group projects where students didn't know English at all. I ran into a problem of them not understanding my notes or words I was using with a presentation or project. This was surprising to me because I came in thinking everyone knew English and was comfortable using it. Sometimes that would mean translating their emails and text into English as well as translating my text into their language to make it easier for them. It taught me how important communication truly is within the workplace. Everyone learns differently and this taught me effective communication skills in order to complete a task. Going the extra mile can make everyone in the group more comfortable and cause less stress, tension, and bumps in the road.

What advice would you give?

Some advice I have for other students is to take the risk. I think the most important thing I learned while being abroad was to be able to live in uncomfortableness. When I was home I was always comfortable and never stepped outside of the box I created. When I went abroad I didn't have that box and I was able to meet amazing people I wouldn't have. I also was able to learn so much more about my major as well as myself. If you are constantly comfortable in your space you aren't growing or challenging yourself as a person. By studying abroad I learned stronger communication skills, problem-solving skills, and time management skills. I wouldn't change my decision to study abroad and I would suggest it to anyone who even is questioning the idea. It was an amazing experience and I have so many memories I will take with me into the future along with new friendships from all over the United States and the World.

How has this experience impacted your life?

Through studying abroad I was able to experience different teaching and learning styles. I was able to learn and expand my knowledge of the world. I learned about the culture of Italy and how different it is from the United States. It taught me patience as well that I was rushing through my life instead of taking time to stop and enjoy it. My personal goal in studying abroad was to grow my mindset. Through studying abroad and being here I challenged myself to think in a different way than I was used it. That could even mean trying bubbly water when I was used to natural water or even trying their delicacy here which was called lampredotto and that translate to cow's stomach. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and to push myself out of the box to think creatively in my studies and to push myself to meet new people and try new things. I think overall those helped me within my long-term career goals. This is because I was able to make connections all over the world and in the United States. It allowed me to learn to adapt to my surroundings because no one is the same. It kept me on my toes and taught me problem-solving skills I don't think I would have if I didn't study abroad.

How did you learn about this experience?

During orientation, I learned about this international opportunity as a freshman at Iowa State. I traveled in High School, so I knew I wanted to study abroad when I got to college and be able to live overseas. I talked to students who went to both the schools in Florence, Italy to figure out which school I would like. I also went on each of the Florence school's offered websites to learn more about their programs and what they provided. I also talked to advisors within the study abroad offices in order to get more information on both of the schools.

International Connections