Many people do not realize how a simple yes or no question can change their lives. “If you were given the opportunity to study abroad, would you take it?” Those few words turned into ideas as the months progressed, and eventually turned into a life-changing experience that took place thousands of miles from home. These were the words of Jim Hensley, the executive director of the Dorrance Scholarship Program, which not only funds my academic endeavors in Arizona, but sent my colleagues and me to the small, historical town of Orvieto, Italy. It was an opportunity for me to expand my knowledge; instead of focusing on STEM courses, I studied the classics belonging to the ancient world.
Our group had the opportunity to land in Macedonia and work with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for disadvantaged families. Afterwards our academics began in a week-long visit to the country of Greece to witness the beauty the past has left us. We then embarked to Orvieto, Italy to study and live within the high walls of the traditional duomo-based town. While becoming involved with Orivieto’s fruitful culture, we made numerous trips to Rome, Venice and Naples. I also had the opportunity to visit other nearby countries, such as Spain, France, and Germany. Upon our return to the United States, we landed in Washington D.C. to witness first hand how the ancient world has impacted our current one.
Although my courses did not coincide with my major, the knowledge I learned inside and outside the classroom is simply invaluable to me. In a traditional classroom, you could study a piece of art and that would be the end of it. However in Orvieto, we had the opportunity to study a piece of art and then make a short day trip to see the intricacies of the piece in person. This was simply an unfathomable experience that I hope every student has the opportunity in which to participate.
Beyond the scope of learning traditional material, the skills I learned throughout my travels are immeasurable. Being lost in the streets of Rome taught me to always be observant. Witnessing the grand glamour of St. Peter’s Basilica demonstrated that determination goes a long way. Learning to navigate the subway systems of Paris taught me independence. Building homes for the needy in Macedonia showed me that long nights of studying do not compare to the problems some face. Finally, coming out of the experience in one piece instilled within me the confidence needed to face any future challenges academia, or life, has to offer.
Now I ask you, if you were given the opportunity to study abroad, would you take it? It is my hope that my story, as well as the story of my fellow colleagues, appeals to your scientific nature, and convinces you to study the unknown, by studying abroad.