My study abroad experience is unfortunately over.
I am now back in the States and needless to say missing Milan and Italy like crazy.
Italy is a really special and complex place. The tourist books will tell you all about the beautiful architecture and incredible history, and of course the exquisite cuisine but I found so much more than that. I could go on forever about all the great experiences I have had with the amazing people I have met. But this is a blog, so I’ll keep it short and cut to the chase. There is absolutely nothing that can replace a semester or a year studying abroad.
I think the most interesting and most important thing I took away from this year is that American students must at all cost make an effort to spend time living abroad and realize that this is not only an opportunity to travel and get to know internationals and locals, but it is foremost an opportunity for them to get to know you, as an ambassador of your school and your country. Other international students are far more aware of American culture and customs than Americans are of any country outside of the U.S. This judgement stretches beyond a stereotype; it’s a reputation. I saw the attention given by Italians and other international exchange students to the way Americans are and how they act. The exchange students that come from Europe/East Europe already have a history together, a long and eventful one at that. These countries have bordered each other, been in and out of each other’s lives for centuries. America- on the other hand is still a world away, and it’s amazing that even in our age of globalization where contact between continents is just a mouse click away, there is still a deep fascination and curiosity about the U.S. and how Americans handle different situations. As students, we have the chance to make the impression a positive one. I believe this is especially important in light of the actions the U.S. has taken in the last decade combined with the rapid growing power of nations around the world.
On a lighter note, thank you Milan. Thank you Italy and thanks to the McCombs Study Abroad program!