Meet Amanda, a happy-go-lucky, cheerful girl who writes at Chasing My Sunshine. I’m pretty sure you can infer from her blog title what a fun-loving girl she is. Like me, she is crazy about the study abroad experience and offers plenty of study abroad tips on her blog, especially if you are planning to head to Rome!
1. What’s your name, age, occupation and country you are from?
My name is Amanda! I’m a 25 year old grad student from the United States. I’m finishing up my Masters degree in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
2. Why did you decide to study overseas?
I owe a lot of thanks to my friend Adam and Liz Gilbert, here. My friend was so excited to study abroad that he really got me thinking about it and made me realize how lucky I was to have a university that offered it. Around this time was also when I fell into the travel memoir rabbit-hole (hello, Eat Pray Love) and I was convinced that Rome was the most beautiful place in the world.
3. In which country did you study and how long?
Not surprisingly, I studied abroad in Rome. I was there for one Fall semester, so about three and a half months.
4. Share a favourite photo taken while you were studying abroad!
I love the Coliseum photos that I still have from my trip. I spent a lot of my time abroad trying my hardest to be “like an Italian.” It was nice to really just embrace my tourist-self and get totally swept up in the amazing history that people walk by every single day.
5. Describe an unforgettable/ scary experience you encountered.
I don’t think I’d actually describe this as “scary” now, but my boyfriend got pick pocketed in the subway. At that time, I didn’t even think of it as an option. I knew it happened and our faculty warned us, but it really challenged me to think in a totally different way. It’s easy to fall into the “it won’t happen to me” train of thought…as well as the “super-overly-cautious-I can’t even smile at anybody else” camp. It definitely brought some balance into my travel life that I still keep in mind today!
6. What was the best thing that happened to you on this trip?
I am so, so thankful that our university program required us to take an Italian class. Not only was it necessary, it totally opened my eyes to language and how different cultures communicate. I took Spanish through grade school and high school, but it is so different when you’re totally immersed. And it really is something to see the look on a local’s face when you try to use their language. Sure, you could be butchering it to all get out…but you’re trying! And a large majority of people you encounter are going to appreciate that. Now I’ll do my best do at least know a few things in other languages so I can see that look on peoples’ faces.
7. How did you overcome a challenge that you faced while you were overseas?
Woah baby, I learned A LOT about how I travel and how other people travel…and sometimes those two definitely do not mix. It’s so easy when you’re studying abroad (heck, even if you’re at home) to want to move as a pack. And if that pack is doing something you’re not a fan of, it isn’t always our first thought to say, “Hey! I don’t want to do that, so I’m going to hang out over here and do my own thing for a little while.”
That’s not necessarily a terrible thing, but I will tell you that it is SUPER empowering to be able to think and choose for yourself. That sort of mindset was something that I struggled with a lot in Rome. But I was able to start branching out by myself (yes, even when that meant that I was 100% definitely the one who was going to be doing the Italian-speaking!). It is so awesome when your confidence grows because of things like this. I attribute a big part of my confidence today to that which I gained while studying abroad!
8. What’s your favourite travel website, whether it be for travel planning or travel inspiration?
Holy moly, I spend a TON of time reading travel blogs. I read them for both travel planning AND inspiration. One of my absolute favourites is This Battered Suitcase. Brenna has such a beautiful writing voice, as well as such beautiful stories to tell. She’s also not afraid to speak her mind when she feels it has to be done. Ah! She’s just such a great travel blogger and I’m inspired by her all the time.
9. If you had 2 tips you could share from your study abroad experience to students feeling apprehensive about taking this leap, what would they be?
My first tip would be to talk to somebody that’s done it. I’ll be the first to say that I didn’t have a movie-perfect trip, but I will absolutely talk your ear off about my experience and try to convince you to do the same. I’m fairly sure most other people who studied abroad have the same ability and willingness to share!
My second tip would be to shop around for programs. One thing I wish I would have done is not stay in a dorm where most people speak English. I would have loved to try a homestay. On the contrary, if one of the things you’re nervous about is doing a homestay…check out some other options for while you are there! There’s tons of different ways you can balance studying abroad and your comfort zone. I think it’s important to push your comfort zone, but you don’t necessarily have to completely disregard it!
Student Travel Series seek to showcase travel stories from students, for students. The aim of this series is to inspire more youths and students to take the leap and discover a world outside of your own!
What do you feel about Amanda’s story? Let us know below!