Deciding if you should or should not study abroad is no small feat. Studying abroad means going far away from home to an unfamiliar place, and it can sometimes be a costly decision. However, interest in going abroad for a semester, a year, or even for the full undergraduate experience, is growing immensely among university students. The benefits consistently outweigh the negatives and students are more easily making that jump overseas to explore foreign terrain.
However, it is important to take into consideration all aspects of life abroad before you buy that new travel backpack and passport holder. Below are some questions I have been asked by friends when they were considering going abroad themselves and wondering what led me to my decision to earn my degree at John Cabot University.
Q: Should I go abroad for one semester, or more?
A: It is a very personal choice, but there were a few things I asked myself when I decided to transfer and finish my entire undergrad degree at JCU. I asked myself if I was happy with where I was going to university at the time. I thought about if I was willing and open to try and assimilate into a new culture. Then I also considered how I would feel seeing family only during winter and summer breaks, and if I was okay with living for an extended amount of time in an unfamiliar city. I also asked myself what my goal was: to experience being abroad, or to really live abroad?
Q: Why Italy? Why not somewhere else?
A: Something about Italy was instantly attractive. I think it was the idea that Italians have this very friendly and welcoming culture. Rome has generally good weather and I knew it was also a city bustling with tourists, so it was comforting to know I wouldn’t be the only "outsider".
Q: Do you have to speak Italian to live comfortably there?
A: You really don’t. It is incredibly easy to navigate the city and make it your home without speaking fluent Italian. However, I highly recommend taking Italian language courses prior to your trip or right after you get here, because it will greatly enhance your ease and overall experience in Rome. It is difficult to pick up the language quickly, and I regret not preparing myself beforehand.
Q: How do you find an apartment? Or do you have to live in the dorms?
A: It is actually fairly easy to find an apartment. However, I do recommend living in JCU housing for at least your first semester (I wrote more on this here) as it will probably help ease your transition into JCU and Rome life. But if you really want to find your own Roman apartment, you can start by using social media expat groups or asking around among other JCU students.
Q: Is it easy to travel on the weekends? Is it expensive?
A: It is extremely easy to travel! Countries in Europe are so wonderfully close to each other that in just a few hours you can be in an entirely new culture. There are many low-cost airlines, like the famous Ryanair or Easyjet, which offer great deals.
Q: What is the most difficult thing about being abroad?
A: Missing family and friends can be pretty hard and exhausting. However, the longer I spent in Rome, the easier it became. Once I started becoming closer with people here, the less homesick I felt. It is also not easy being a "foreigner" and sometimes it can feel a bit lonely, but with time that also gets easier. As cliché as it sounds, I do believe you gain a unique sense of independence when being abroad. It changes you, in a good way.
I know firsthand that the decision to leave home and spend many months (or years!) in a different country is a difficult one. It's normal to have doubts, but try to not let it completely deter you from going abroad! Sometimes pushing yourself out of your own comfort zone is just what you need and will give you an amazing sense of accomplishment.
If you still have questions about JCU, explore some more FAQs!