Study Abroad: A Life Changing Experience

Growing up, I always heard my older cousins speak of their study abroad trips. I remember hearing time and time again, “Adri, you must study abroad – it’s life changing.”

Naturally, being a younger cousin always looking up to my older cousins, I decided early on that while in college, I would spend time abroad.

I didn’t know where I would go, for how long I would go or when I would go. I just knew I was bound to have a life changing experience at some point in my college career thanks to studying abroad. And boy, did I ever.

Last summer I studied abroad from May 25 to June 25 in Rome, Italy. I was to take six credits at the American University of Rome Institute (AUR) for one month. However, that was just one small part of my trip abroad.

Seriously, get excited, because I promise you the rest of this story will not only make you feel and taste the rich culture I experienced, as if you were there with me. But, without a doubt, it will have you making an appointment with the study abroad office.

Ready to have your life changed? Well get ready, because my cousins weren’t lying – my life is forever changed.

As I’m sure you can all imagine, just having to wait for my flight to take off had me in an anxious, adrenaline-fueled mentality. But, once I stepped off that flight, and started to truly explore Rome, I was at ease.

It was all so surreal. Being in the ancient land that preserved more history than any of my high school history textbooks ever did. Being steps away from the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Vatican City, The Pantheon, Spanish Steps, ah – the list goes on and on.

Everyday I was sight-seeing, which always lead to being completely lost with absolutely no direction in what seemed like a never ending maze. I was living in Rome and enjoying every last minute of it.

For those of you drawing a picture in your mind from every film you’ve seen set in Rome ( i.e. “The Lizzie McGuire Movie,” “Gladiator,” “La Dolce Vita,” etc.), I promise you, that while the movies paint a great picture, being there is unlike anything you will ever experience.

It is enchanting, rich in culture and filled with constant, new teachings.

During my time abroad, everyday became an adventure, every night became a special memory and every person I met along the way made such an impact on my life.

I befriended fellow Chippewas, I shared laughs, stories and travels with college students from all around the world (all of which I still don’t know how I ever went through life not knowing prior), and I experienced personal growth.

Within my month of being in Rome and traveling all over Italy on the weekends. I threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain, I attended mass at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, I hiked up Mount Vesuvius (the active volcano that once buried Pompeii) and I walked on the land of Pompeii.

I drank wine under the Tuscan sun, I went for a gondola ride in Venice, I took the tourist photo with the leaning tower of Pisa, I walked on the Ponte Vecchio (bridge) in Florence, and I realized that I could not let this experience end.

My ever generous, supportive parents that make my dreams come true, extended my trip an extra month. Seriously, the ultimate best parents award goes to them. I am truly blessed.

Since my classes at AUR had now ended, I had to leave my temporary apartment, mail home the majority of the clothes I packed, buy a travel backpack and a Eurail train pass, map out my next month of traveling around Europe and leave my suitcase along with Rome (don’t worry Roma, I will be back).

I backpacked by myself, meeting many friends along the way, stayed in hostels, tried new foods, experienced new cultures and set foot on multiple countries throughout Europe.

I journeyed from Rome to Venice, Italy to Budapest, Hungary, then made my way to Munich, Germany (best beer ever!). I then ventured to meet up with a few new friends I made in Rome at AUR. We traveled to Amsterdam, Netherlands stopped in Brussels, Belgium (best waffles ever!), then went to Paris, France. And let me tell you, it’s true – the Eiffel Tower at night is every synonym of beautiful.

From there, I parted ways and moved southward by my myself.

My next stop was Madrid, Spain, where my brother and a few of my cousins traveled from home to meet me. It’s always better when we are together, and was it ever.

After not being in much contact with family for nearly two months, I was thrilled to have some family join me on my travels and boy did we travel through all of Spain. It was hot, it was the best sangria I have ever tasted and it was official – I was bitten by the travel bug.

Europe will always hold a special place in my heart. They say you may experience culture shock while abroad, but I did not. I believe I truly experienced culture shock when after two months in Europe, my flight landed and I stepped off the plane back on Michigan ground.

Stay cultured my friends, trust the journey and live a life filled with life changing experiences.