When in Rome: former Features editor reflects on studying abroad


Kat Shindledecker, a senior management major, tours Cinque Terre in Vernazza, Italy, as part of studying abroad in Rome this semester.

At the end of last semester, I decided to rip up my schedule. I started over completely. I became too comfortable with my life and school. I knew exactly where I would be, what I would do and who I’d hang out with. But there has always been a dream of mine [to travel], and I had just been called on, so to speak.

Rome. That’s where I needed to be. A semester abroad would give me everything I never had. When I thought about it, I always questioned how hard it would be and whether I could do it. But I knew I needed a change and it seemed perfect.

I have always lived at home, worked the same job, took tons of classes and felt comfortable with my friends that I have had since high school. Going abroad would throw me into a situation that I had no idea how to handle. I didn’t know Italian, anybody else going and I have never lived alone.

It didn’t feel like I was leaving until the airport. It felt like it would never really happen. My new reality of living alone didn’t set in until the first time I had to cook for myself. I suddenly realized I didn’t know how to cook the simplest things for myself.

Everything is hard. Making all new friends and being thrown into a completely new place without being able to speak the language is incredibly difficult.

Now it has been three weeks and I feel like I have Rome down. I know how to get around and speak basic Italian. Tourists actually stop and ask me where to go and I know.

I have a whole new friend group for the first time since high school. My weekend trips are booked and paid for. I am all settled in.

This weekend was my first trip to Naples and Cinque Terre. I had some of the best pizza in the world and got to see some of the most beautiful spots in Italy.

I wouldn’t say that studying abroad is for everyone, but if you have the chance, DO IT. It’s hard but life-changing. There are a lot of challenges that I have never had to face before but I think that’s why I did this. I wanted to be forced to do new things and be uncomfortable. In three more months I think I’ll come home a completely new person.

I hope to be more independent, confident and worldly. I want to have unique stories and experiences. I just had to take advantage of the chance to travel. More than likely I won’t get to travel like this again in my lifetime.

A person just needs to take full advantage of an opportunity when it is presented. Don’t let something good pass you up because you were too scared or comfortable in your life.


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