I sort of chose to study abroad on a whim. It was not something that was on my list of things to do when I came to college. I had considered it, but it wasn't a necessity. However, when two different study abroad opportunities came up, I applied just because I could. I didn't know if I would get either of them, and they were both incredibly different from each other. While both programs benefitted me in separate ways, study abroad is competitive, so I took my chance, and waited.
I waited only to receive the news that I had been accepted into both programs.
This, in turn, started the long road to making a decision. Not only did I have to choose between the two programs and decide which major I wanted to influence with a study abroad experience, but also then there was the challenge of choosing to study abroad over pursuing an internship. This was tough. It required a great amount of research, looking at the pros and cons, asking for the opinions. Neither was a poor decision, but it was a challenging verdict. Ultimately I chose to study abroad, and I decided journalism in Italy over studying dance in London. As much as I wish I could do it all, it was impossible.
I chose Italy for a number of reasons. The amount of experience the JMU Dance program has given me has been immense, and I am so thankful for that. I have truly seen myself grow and succeed in the past three years. However, my other major is still new to me. The media arts and design world is something that I am still exploring. This study abroad experience gave me a chance to bring my media experience up to the level that my dance experience is at. The portfolio that I came out of this study abroad experience was essentially equivalent to that of an internship. Furthermore, while I would travel back to London in a heartbeat, I was able to venture into a country that I have never explored. Overall, this experience took me out of my element and taught me a great deal that I discovered I am able to apply to all aspects of my life, dance included.
This experience brought me out of my dance world and allowed me to rediscover what it takes to work with other individuals. With dance, I have spent the past three years with the same people. I know how all of our personalities mesh, I know how to work and be successful with the same group because we have grown through college together. By being abroad, I was with a group of 29 other students that I have never met before. I didn't know if we would get along, I didn't know the work ethic of those around me, I didn't know what challenges and what successes we would face.
I have lived the "go, go, go" lifestyle for a very long time. I don't have a lot of free time, so when I receive a task I try to get it done almost immediately. I had gotten used to being surrounded by individuals who also live the same hectic life I do, however in Italy, though everyone I was with was all hard workers, life is a little bit slower. I found myself rushing to get things done as soon as possible, while those I worked with were willing to take their time. While my life back in the United States will continue to be this "go, go, go" atmosphere, I was able to discover the challenges of working with new individuals and adapting to a new lifestyle. I was taken out of my comfortable element and exposed to a new way of life that I haven't seen in a long time.
While I continue to work hard, I now have more of an appreciation for working with people who are not used to the lifestyle that I live, and I feel that this change has made me more open and accepting of new individuals, despite the differences we may have.
Another part of this trip I was able to take in was the idea of never settling. To be a successful journalist, you have to always be wanting more. You have to have the drive, and the want to continue to seek out the information you are looking for. At the beginning of my trip, we created an outline of exactly how we wanted our article to go. We displayed what sources we wanted to collect, designed a layout for our work, and it seemed pretty straightforward.
However, a perfect world doesn't exist.
In order to find a single person to interview, my partner and I had to collectively spend four hours with two different Italian interpreters making phone calls. Four hours for ONE INTERVIEW. We called the same number roughly 12 times just to get their contact information. Being a journalist is tough, and sometimes you have to settle for what the world has to give you. It is never going to be perfect, but a smart journalist can formulate the information they have received, whether it is one interview or ten, into the story that they want. I think that this concept was something I needed to rediscover. It is so easy to get burned out, to be working on something for so long that you just need a break.
I spent my junior spring semester running four dance performances in a row, while also performing in three of them, as well as working with a guest artist for a week. By the end I was done, I needed some time off. However, this trip taught me how to continue to find the fire. To approach each task as something fresh and brand new, even if it is the same concept over and over again. I needed to relearn how to always find my love for what I do. Even on the days where I am exhausted and all I want to do is quit, this trip taught me that there would be success at the end, no matter what.
Whether it is an achievement or a lesson learned, reaching the end is always worth it, so continue pushing forward.
While I could go on for ages, though it seems I already have, the final element that I have been able to take back to my everyday life is the idea that everyone should have a global experience and see what it is like to immerse yourself in other cultures. We spend a lot of our time living in a bubble, following the same schedule day in and day out. Many people have no idea what other cultures exist out there because we frequently only know one lifestyle, our own. I firmly believe that if possible, everyone should have an experience abroad, and if you get the chance to, do your best to live in a country like a local. I feel truly blessed to have been able to make the small town of Urbino my home for a month.
While we got the opportunity to travel to bigger, more known cities, we almost found ourselves missing our small world. The locals want to get to know you; they want you to experience their lifestyle. People would simply invite us along on their day or want to cook us a meal, even shop owners would stop us to say hello because they remembered us from the day before. Traveling abroad opens your eyes to other worlds that exist out there, so whether you are studying, or are just their for the adventure, it truly changes your life and makes you a more open, honest, and humble human being. Go explore, it will be worth it.