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Student Profiles

Laura at the vineyard Tenuta Bonzara in the hills of Bologna

Overseas Study Program

Bologna,  Italy

My advice would be to study abroad as long as possible and while you're there, do anything that sounds interesting that you can't do at home. Try the local food. Witness the local traditions. Meet the local people. ”

Laura Rastl

Major: Italian

Term abroad: Academic Year 2014-2015

Why did you choose this program? For me becoming fluent in Italian was the ultimate goal of spending time abroad. BCSP was the most immersive program offered. You have to arrange your own housing and take all of your classes in Italian. Even though it sounded intimidating, I decided that was the best opportunity to learn the language.

Describe your favorite class abroad. I really enjoyed learning about Medieval art and history. It's something I never would have chosen to study in Indiana, but was really rewarding. Learning about Italy's complicated history helped me better understand the current culture.

What was the housing like on your study abroad program? When you arrive in Bologna you have two weeks in a hotel during which time you have to apartment hunt. I ended up living just inside the old city walls with four other Italians, each from a different part of Italy.

What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students? My advice would be to study abroad as long as possible and while you're there, do anything that sounds interesting that you can't do at home. Try the local food.  Witness the local traditions. Meet the local people. You can hang out with Americans anytime, so take advantage of the unique opportunities. It will go by more quickly than you realize.

What’s your best memory from your time abroad? My roommates and I had a 'family' Christmas dinner before everyone left for the holiday. We made a paper tree and all helped cook and then had a wonderful evening together. That was the moment I realized that I had made friends I would cherish for the rest of my life.

What was your biggest surprise about the location, culture or other aspects of your program? Bologna ended up being a really fascinating city because of the mix of locals, tourists, and university students from all over the world. It's a very Italian city, but is always full of diverse people.

Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock. I didn't have a lot of culture shock. There were some difficult moments, but I adjusted fairly easily to the Italian lifestyle. However, I had a lot of reverse culture shock. The US still feels in too much of a hurry, and I miss the lifestyle changes that I made while I was there.

“If I could do it over, I would…” Not worry as much about whether my Italian was perfect. It took me many months to realize it was much better to express myself, even if in imperfect Italian, than to not speak.

What do you know now that you didn’t know before you went abroad? I know so much more about both the history of Europe and the current social and political climate in Italy and Europe as a whole. This helps me now to sort out American media coverage of Europe and my own views of the world.

What do you wish someone had told you before you left? I wish someone had told me that traveling on your own is not scary. I was told so many stories or guidelines that scared me into thinking that I as a female shouldn't go anywhere alone, but I discovered that with a little common sense and advance planning, a solo trip can be really rewarding.

If you participated in an internship while abroad, would you recommend that future students take an internship and why? I did an internship preparing a guided tour in English of a Medieval Museum in Bologna. It was an amazing experience. I learned so much from my mentor at the museum, and I learned about so much other than Medieval history. It was a lesson in leadership.

What was your greatest challenge? I am an introvert, so for me the greatest challenge was to find ways to express myself in another language. I really had to push myself to open up to people and not be afraid to be myself.

Discuss: “Going abroad vs. staying on campus.” There is no question in my mind. Most people have at least four years on campus. You're not going to regret taking a semester or a year of that and doing something different. Little 5 happens every year. Going to another country does not. What you gain from going abroad far outweighs what you miss on campus.

What fact about your host country do you think people would be surprised to learn? Many Italians drink espresso after every meal--even if it's at the end of dinner at 11 p.m. Personally, I can't do that and sleep, but to them it's perfectly normal.

How did you find scholarships for study abroad? I discovered that my scholarships I already get transferred because it is an IU  program. I also applied for the HIEP grant.

Would you recommend other students pursue any specific scholarship opportunities? The HIEP grant is a great one, and you don't have to be in the Honors College to apply.