Knowlton School of Architecture: Rome Program May 2015
My STEP project entailed a four-week trip to Rome studying at the University of Arkansas Rome Center through the Knowlton School of Architecture. Class was held Monday through Friday and there was freedom to travel throughout Italy and beyond during the weekends.
During this study abroad experience I gained a huge amount of respect for people who spend months in foreign countries. In addition, my appreciation for the value of learning other languages in addition to English grew immensely. Specifically for myself, I learned that I can handle a lot more on my own than I thought I could. I also learned that there is a reason why people take great pride in being an American.
Through this program I most definitely experienced a transformation. This was my first time traveling outside of the United States without my family. I did not know any of the Italian language and I knew nothing about the layout of Rome so there were many potential opportunities for me to learn and grow. During the first week in Rome I had to adjust to the food and restaurant culture that was normal for Italians. For example, very little meat is consumed, wine is standard with every lunch and dinner, and it is almost insulting to leave a tip for the waiter/waitress.
The second week in Rome was when I experienced the biggest change in my world views. I was so sick the second week that I had to go to the Italian hospital. While at the hospital, I was accompanied by an interpreter because many of the hospital staff members did not speak any English. The interpreter was part of the University of Arkansas Rome Center staff and she was very helpful and very concerned about my health. I must say there is a noticeable difference between American and Italian hospitals. One of those differences being that if you have a legitimate need to see a doctor; the Italian taxpayers cover your hospital fee.
During my morning spent at the hospital, I tested positive for mononucleosis and was instructed to rest a few days. The next few days of rest made me feel worse instead of better. It was during this time that I gained a great appreciation for bilingual individuals and people who spend extended periods of time outside of their home country. I also gained an even greater appreciation for American food. By Saturday of the second week I spoke with my professor and our study abroad coordinator at Ohio State and we agreed that it would be best for me to come home. I worked out an agreement that I would complete the study abroad assignments that I was missing over the summer. Once I completed the assignments then I would receive credit for the course. Until then, my transcript would mark this course as an “Incomplete”. The flight back home was the first time I have ever flown by myself and once we landed, I was so happy to be back on American soil.
The development I experienced during this trip is relevant for all of my future travels. While I am very content with staying in the United States for a significant period of time, I know that if I survived this international excursion then I can survive many others. I was intimidated to do some things without the comfort of close family or friends by my side but now I have more trust in the system and faith that I can do things on my own. Whether that system is the Italian hospital system or the independent experience of flying on my own. In summary, I learned that I was tougher than I thought I was and I am so grateful to be living in America.