My name is Kelsey Ferrenberg and I’m a Senior at the University of Washington in Tacoma, graduating this spring 2018 with a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing. This past Winter Quarter I studied abroad in Italy through UWT’s “Creativity and Place” program. I hope that some of this will inspire other students to study abroad, because it is one of the best decisions I have ever made!
Some advice I would offer students thinking about studying abroad is based on my own experiences in Italy, but I don’t think it applies to just Italy. Studying abroad, I found (before the beginning of my program), seemed like a frightening experience—a lot of aspects of it made me worried or anxious. I think this can really hit anyone, but for me I think it was more prominent because the farthest and longest I’ve been out of the country was in Mexico for one week. I want to let you know, though, that no one who’s thinking about studying abroad should let worries or anxieties prevent them from taking that leap! Studying abroad was an amazing experience. Not only were my anxieties and worries all for naught, when something bad did happen and I had the worse sinus infection of my life, my amazing new friends, the great professors who were leading the program, and the Rome Center all supported me through it.
Another piece of advice I would offer other students is for when you arrive in the country your studying in, don’t be afraid to get lost! This was one of the most important things I learned while away. We all learned quickly that the best way to learn more about a place, to see more of a place, and to understand a culture better, was to just get lost. Of course, we went out on trips to see the amazing, famous sites—like the Colosseum, and the Vatican—but we also just walked. We went down backstreets, found beautiful little piazzas, and the best gelato I’ve ever had. Getting lost took us away from the tourist parts of the city. There we could see Rome under all the tourists, beyond all the flashy gift shops, and postcard stands. We saw Rome for what it really is, and I think that’s one of the most beautiful parts of study abroad.
Why do I think more students should study abroad? Well, I started out with a simple dream: of seeing more of the world. Now that I’ve had time to reflect on my experiences it’s become more and more clear to me why this was important, and what it really helped me learn. I think we all seek study abroad for this romantic idea of exploration, and that’s okay. Exploration, and having a better understanding of the cultures of the world is an amazing thing to experience. The beautiful places I saw, and the people I met were both wonderful parts of my study abroad experience. However, these experiences taught me something more about myself. Studying abroad took me outside of the box of familiarity we live in here in the United States, and showed me who I am outside of those boundaries. I think I’ve learned more about myself, and more about my own confidence and my own strengths and weaknesses, and that was something I definitely wasn’t expecting.
There’s one more thing that I think was completely unexpected during my study abraod experience. Study abroad is important because, it opens your eyes to how big the world really is. It makes one realize that everything we see on TV or read about in books and magazines, is greater and more beautiful than we could ever imagine.