Hannah Gehringer Peer Advisor Temple Rome

Top 5 Takeaways From Study Abroad: Reflections from a Graduating Senior

Springtime has always been a time for change. New weather, the end of classes, trees blossoming, and exciting new plans for the summer. Usually around this time I’m daydreaming about summer getaways with friends and frantically trying to finalize a summer internship. However, this spring is a little different, and not just because of the switch to online classes. This spring I’ll be graduating from Temple University and closing one chapter of my life while (hopefully) opening a new one. Recently, I decided to attend law school after graduation, so this spring I’ll also be figuring out where I’d like to go to school next year and where the next chapter of my life will begin. 

Springtime in Rome at Villa Sciarra. 

May 2020 not only marks my graduation date, but it also signifies one year since I came home from studying abroad. Studying for an academic year at Temple Rome was one of the most formative experiences of my life, and I find myself continuing to learn from my time abroad almost a year later. Studying abroad can teach you a lot of lessons -more than can fit into one blog post- but here are the top five I’m carrying with me into my future. 

  1. There’s so much of the world to see, and so little time. 

Before studying abroad at Temple Rome, I had never been to Europe or even on a plane by myself before. Trying to make up for what I perceived as lost time, I woke up every morning at the crack of dawn and started walking around the city. Within a few short days, I had seen so much of the city and had started falling in love with the culture that surrounded me. But, no matter how far I walked or how many monuments I discovered, I knew that I could never fully see or know everything that Rome had to offer.  

So, I took a huge leap. After being in Rome for 3 weeks, I decided to extend my study abroad semester and stay for the academic year. Even though a lot of my friends and family thought I was making a rash decision, I knew that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I had to take. 

Spending a year in Rome allowed me to get to know the city as best as I could. No longer was I just a tourist or study abroad student passing through the city. Instead, I felt like a local. I greeted my neighbors with an overly enthusiastic “Buongiorno!” every morning, I drank an unhealthy amount of caffe’, and I had a running list of my favorite parts of the city. At the end of my 8 months abroad, I had crossed so many experiences off my bucket list, but no matter how much I did my bucket list kept growing. 

That’s one of the worst parts about studying abroad. The more you see and experience, the more you want to see and experience. As I graduate college, I hope that studying abroad wasn’t so much of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. During law school I plan to study abroad if possible, and eventually I would like to find a job that allows me to travel for work so that I can experience living in a different culture again. 

The view from the doorstep of my teeny, tiny Italian apartment. 

  1. The world can be small, but study abroad makes it smaller. 

Throughout the semester as I was crossing destinations off my bucket list, my experiences were so much more rewarding because of the friendships I made along the way. Even though I studied abroad with a Temple program, when I departed for Rome I didn’t know many of the people I was going with. But, as cheesy as it sounds, the friends I made abroad quickly became some of the most important and influential people in my life. Without studying abroad I would have never met some of my best friends, including a friend who lives in California and another who still lives in Rome. These lifelong friendships were not something I expected to gain from studying abroad, but have become invaluable to me since coming home. Today I still stay in contact with my friend who lives in Rome, which has made the issues of the world feel more personal and tangible during such an uncertain time. Also, this year I had the chance to visit my friend in California, marking my first ever trip to the West Coast! Studying abroad introduces you to friends and relationships unlike any other, and I feel comfortable knowing that no matter where I end up next year, I’ll have a friend wherever I go. 

Some incredible friends I made throughout the year. 

  1. Employers really do (only) care about your time abroad. 

Like many other students who go abroad, I was very concerned about securing an internship or some type of work for the summer after I came back from Rome. As I’ll explain later, I’m a huge planner, and I made it a priority to line something up for the summer while I was still abroad. Despite differences in time zones and spotty wifi connections, I interviewed for a number of different internships while in Rome and learned a lot about the job interview process. While abroad, I also interned twice through Temple Rome’s for-credit internship program, gaining a lot of experience and skills to carry with me into my future career. During my interviews, I talked a lot about how studying abroad and my internships helped me with my problem-solving skills, language skills, self-confidence, and ability to adapt to new environments – but I quickly realized that employers were mostly curious about life in Rome! My expectations did a complete 180, and I found myself talking about my neighborhood in Rome, where I was traveling that weekend, and what type of wine I liked to drink more often than the skills needed for the position. My skills and qualifications were still the foundations of our conversations, but being able to talk about study abroad helped make these interviews much more relaxed and personal. Even though my year in Rome only takes up one line on my resume, it’s definitely there to stay now and in the future. 

  1.  Remember to appreciate the little things. 

From calling out a brief “scendi?” on the metro everyday to the way the sun cast shadows on my favorite street in Rome, living abroad for a year and traveling for the first time in my life taught me to appreciate every opportunity I have been given and everything that I have worked hard to achieve. Although I cherish a lot of the big moments of study abroad, like seeing the Colosseum for the first time or how it felt every time I walked into the Sistine Chapel, my favorite memories were found in the small, in between moments that normally pass us by everyday. As I move on to law school, these are things I remember most about my time in Rome and in college.

My favorite street in Rome, Via Margutta. This is where Roman Holiday was filmed!

  1. It’s okay to not know what’s next. 

Before I studied abroad, I rarely ever deviated from the path I set for myself. From the classes I had planned on taking each semester and the places I wanted to intern before graduating, down to the meals I was eating that week, I was always one step ahead of myself. But, spending a year abroad taught me how to roll with the punches, since I never knew what challenges I would face next. Whether it was waiting for the ever-delayed ATAC buses or trying to navigate daily life with a language barrier, I was unable to plan every minute of my life in Rome. Learning how to be comfortable during times of uncertainty has helped me cope with some of the challenges that I have faced after coming home from study abroad. As COVID-19 unexpectedly cut my senior year short, so many things have happened this year that I wasn’t planning for. But everyday I try to apply the lessons I learned while abroad and remember that you can make some of your best memories when you’re least expecting it. Even though my future is largely uncertain right now, I’m looking forward to what could be ahead. 

My last day in Rome, photographed near the top of the Spanish Steps.

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