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Brooke Sayan - John Cabot University

Published: Monday, 05 Feb 2018
Author: Cheryl Ann Benner
Department: Office for Education Abroad

Name: Brooke Sayan

Status: Senior

Major: Psychology

Hometown: Traverse City

Program: John Cabot University, Rome, Italy 2017

This past fall semester I was able to achieve one of my lifelong dreams of living in Italy by studying abroad. I had always imagined what life would be like in the Eternal City with its ancient monuments, magnificent museums, charming streets, and lively culture. Thanks to Michigan State University's extensive Education Abroad program, I was finally able to turn those dreams into reality while forming lifelong friendships, gaining a global perspective, and enhancing my education to help me better prepare for my career goals.

When picturing Italy, I always had a distinct image in my head of an Italian's daily life; walking down cobblestone streets, gelato in hand, past countless quaint bistros and pizzerias, merry people seated just outside laughing, sipping wine, eating spaghetti, and listening to sounds of live music as tourists and schoolchildren alike gather around an ornate marble fountain in the center of a piazza. Yes, this is the most cliché depiction of Italy and I fully anticipated on my high hopes for this country being unmet upon arrival. Much to my delight, this fantasy ended up being my actual daily routine. In those small moments of eating gelato on the steps of a piazza or looking up from my textbook out over the school terrace to see the signature orange rooftops and bricks walls draped in vines, I couldn't believe just how good my life was. Personally, I had never felt more fulfilled than during my time abroad. Of course, my academic life experienced trials and triumphs as well.

The biggest myth I had always heard before going abroad was that my semester was going to be a breeze and that all my classes were going to be easy since the professors knew my main priority would be travelling. Oh, how wrong this was. Yes, immersing yourself in your host country's culture should be a goal of your time abroad; after all, what's the point of going abroad if you're not going to do as the Romans do? Plus, it'd be a shame to waste all that access to cheap and fast transportation to surrounding countries (like Ryanair's $5 flight from Belgium to France). However, falling behind in classes and essentially wasting tuition away to chug beers at Oktoberfest is not a very good trade if you ask me. Fortunately, my classes in Rome were far from traditional which made them more engaging and easier to succeed in. As much as I love my daily stroll past Wells Hall here in East Lansing, nothing beats going inside the Sistine Chapel or seeing the Trevi Fountain during a Tuesday class. Being able to see firsthand the locations and historical works of art that I was learning about in textbooks added a whole other dimension to the learning process and put into perspective the magnitude and beauty of history's everlasting influence. The lessons I learned and experiences I had during my semester abroad made me not only a better student, but a better person with a deeper, richer knowledge of our world's history and its people.

I have not always known what career I've wanted, but I have always known that I wanted to see as much of the world as possible and use my travel experiences to somehow intertwine with and enhance my career. Studying abroad only further solidified these goals and reaffirmed my belief that cultural immersion is key for uniting people across countries. I want to take those ideals with me into my career to inspire global citizenship and eliminating biases that cause so much divisiveness and turmoil in our world. Every Italian I met was kind, accepting, curious, and in love with life—all traits I hope to carry with me and spread to others in my career as well as my personal life. I am so grateful to John Cabot and Michigan State for giving me this life-changing opportunity.