How You Can Develop Greater Empathy While You Study Abroad

June 30, 2021
Students laughing around a table

Any student who gets to study abroad can come away from the experience as a more empathetic individual. While there are many different lessons one can gain from the opportunity, students may be particularly impacted by having so many cross-cultural experiences and interactions. Once you arrive in a country like Italy, you learn how to get used to an environment and culture you aren’t used to back home. Not only do you learn to adapt to your new surroundings, but you also gain a deeper understanding of how people in this country live their lives. As a result, you challenge any preconceptions you may have previously had, and you learn to become a more compassionate and emotionally mature young adult.

Here are some key ways in which you may develop greater empathy while studying abroad.


To Study Abroad Is to Put Yourself in the Shoes of Another Culture

It’s not unusual for students studying abroad to experience some level of culture shock when they first arrive in their new host country. This is just as true in Italy, where English is not the most commonly spoken language. Yet having an experience like this can help to shape your outlook, allowing you to place yourself in the shoes of those who immigrate to new countries and need to adapt to an entirely new way of life. Being the “foreigner” in this situation might initially cause feelings of anxiety, but you ultimately gain a stronger sense of appreciation for the country’s people and culture. As an example, you’ll likely note a slower pace of life in Italy than what you’re used to. This typically includes an extended lunch period, which often has businesses and stores closing for a couple of hours every day in the early afternoon. While this may throw you at first, you will eventually come to appreciate this approach to the daily schedule as a unique, important cultural aspect of Italian life.  


Students gain empathy by developing an understanding of the local culture 


You’ll Gain a Better Understanding of Global Working Culture

Each culture is distinct in its beliefs, values, communication styles, and interpretations of history. For any student leaving home to go to a school like John Cabot University, there’s a strong sense of global awareness that can be gained from the experience of living within a different culture. Immersing yourself into the culture allows you to see the world’s issues and complexities with a more nuanced, empathetic lens. This is especially the case if you decide to find work or intern in the country at some point, as you’ll have the chance to develop a deeper understanding of the nation’s working culture. With this type of opportunity, you may notice that workplace hierarchy is especially important, while punctuality is less of a priority for many working professionals in Italy. Such first-hand exposure to a global working experience is an excellent skill to have for improving your empathy within a professional context. Even if you don’t take an internship or work in Italy, your time spent in this new part of the world gives you important first-hand exposure to the country’s culture and philosophies that can’t necessarily be learned in class. 


Traveling helps to challenge your preconceptions of different countries and the people living there


You Challenge Your Own Biases and Preconceptions of Others

Having the opportunity to study abroad at JCU also gives you the opportunity to attend classes alongside students from around the world, allowing you to interact with people from many different cultural backgrounds. With a student body representative of over 80 countries, JCU’s students have a chance to learn about cultures different from their own by participating in student clubs and organizations such as the Multicultural Club, Africans in the World Cultural Club, and more. All of these experiences will challenge any preconceptions you may have had about people from around the world—greatly improving your sense of tolerance and compassion for others.



Are you interested in discovering a unique university in Rome opportunity?

Contact John Cabot University today to find out more!

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