Jordan studied in Italy on the Florence: ISI Program.
What specific factors influenced your decision to go abroad?:
My major is international politics, so I have a strong global perspective and keen interest in other cultures. I thought studying abroad would not only be fun but could also show future employers my ability to immerse myself and embody the values of another culture respectfully.
What concerns/fears did you have about studying abroad, and how did you overcome them?
One thing I was worried about prior to studying abroad was being away from home for 4 months. I am from Massachusetts so I don’t travel home often from Penn State; the only times being Spring Break and Easter. However, these short moments home are a nice break from the stressful work of school. I was nervous that when March / April rolled around abroad I would no longer enjoy my time abroad and wish to come home. However, going abroad and the relationships you form there are much different than at school. I met so many fun people from Penn State, UConn and Maryland that I wasn’t even thinking about coming home. As the weather was becoming warmer, I looked forward to weekend trips to the Amalfi Coast, Nice and Barcelona. There was no time to even think about missing home anyways because we were so busy traveling and making the most of our time there.
What advice would you give to outbound study abroad students to help them make the most out of their study abroad experiences?
- Budget: I had friends who created Excel Spreadsheets to layout how much they could spend on groceries, travel, drinks and eating out. It’s helpful to have a plan instead of being surprised when the bill comes.
- Eat Out: you are there to experience the culture and food is a huge part of European culture. I wish I ate out more and I left Florence with wanting to try so many more restaurants.
- Wake Up Early: when travelling. Just because you went out the night before you can’t waste the whole next day.
- Get a cross body bag: pick pocketing is real. I was lucky to not have anything stolen, but a small bag that goes right across your body is more useful than you think.
- Watch out for pigeons: they will fly into you.
Also, the classes aren’t as easy as people make it seem. I wrote more papers abroad than my entire career at Penn State.
Share an experience where you interacted with someone in your host culture in a way that taught you something.
One way studying abroad changed me was that it made me more independent and self-confident. Towards the end of my study abroad experience while I was at the leather market in Florence, I accidentally dropped a vendor’s sunglasses and they immediately broke (showing how cheap they were). The vendor tried to make me pay 20 euros for 1 cheap pair of sunglasses not even worth $5. I refused and told him absolutely not because if these sunglasses broke with that little impact they are not worth 20 euros. This went back and forth for a while with him saying I need to pay him 20 euros and me saying no. He knew I was correct and had to think of an alternative. This situation showed me that my confidence grew. I would have never “fought” someone and defended breaking something that belonged to someone else. I am a shy person, but this showed me how much I had evolved in 4 months.
In the end, I paid him 10 euros and got a pair of sunglasses for myself, too.