Jake Gera: My Study Abroad Semester in Rome
In our “Semester in Rome” series, students in the St. John’s University study abroad program share their life-changing experiences, focusing on how the program has impacted their personal growth and paved the way for a bright and promising future.
About Jake Gera's journey:
Jake Gera is a junior pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biology at St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He is currently studying abroad in Rome, Italy, through the Ozanam Scholars Program and enjoys volunteering with local organizations.
Q: What made you decide to join the study abroad program?
Along with the fact that I am required to study abroad as an Ozanam Scholar, it seemed like both a rewarding and exciting opportunity to go out into the world and discover myself in a new country.
Q: How has studying abroad in Rome helped you explore your interest in biology?
The Rome campus does not have any labs or offer any science courses for my major. I have spoken with the staff and have to decide if I will return after finishing my undergraduate degree for an internship opportunity here in Rome. I was told that I might be able to work in local English-speaking hospitals or clinics to give me work experience and unique cultural opportunities.
Q: As an Ozanam Scholar, what opportunities has studying abroad provided?
The most unique opportunity I have had while abroad that is related to Ozanam is my service with HummusTown and Caritas. HummusTown is a Syrian-owned business that employs refugees and asylum seekers from the Middle East and Africa in Rome to work at the kiosk and kitchen that they run. Caritas is a soup kitchen that serves people from all different cultural backgrounds to help fight hunger in Rome by offering free and accessible meals. Both sites have given me the opportunity to dive into different cultures and practice my Italian during the process.
Q: Can you share your favorite memory so far through the program?
My favorite experience from my study abroad semester was during spring break. I got to travel to Germany and Switzerland to see the beautiful scenery and experience the amazing food.
I also had the opportunity to travel to multiple car museums located in Germany, including Porsche, BMW, and Mercedes, and even got to drive on the German Autobahn for the first time. I loved every minute of it and hope to travel back to that region in the future.
Q: How do you believe studying abroad has impacted your personal growth and development?
Studying abroad has allowed me to explore my limits, from backpacking for days to trying to communicate with people who didn’t speak the same language as me. There has always been a new experience to learn something about myself. Traveling truly teaches you things about yourself that you never knew beforehand, and I have had the amazing opportunity to travel almost weekly while studying abroad.
Why would you recommend the St. John’s study abroad program to another student?
You learn so much about yourself, get to travel to the most beautiful and historic places on the planet, and leave with a much more global perspective on the world. There is truly nothing like studying abroad in terms of experience and personal impact on your life. Everyone should consider taking the opportunity to find themselves.