International Spotlight on St. John’s Gilman Scholars

November 2, 2022

“Journals to Journeys” follows six St. John’s Gilman Scholars as they prepare for their new destinations abroad and their first impressions once there. The Benjamin A. Gilman and Gilman-McCain International Scholarship program was initiated to help students with financial need access study abroad and internship opportunities. An unprecedented eight St. John’s students received the award this year.

Thoughts and Preparations for My Study Abroad, August 2022

By Alivia Caba, Class of 2024, Marketing, Award $4,000

Alivia Caba wearing sunglasses taking a selfie

As the day I leave to study abroad in Italy quickly approaches, I have collected a handful of different emotions. I feel excited and grateful for this opportunity to engulf myself in a new culture while pursuing the completion of my degree. However, the feelings of uncertainty and anxiety creep up when I realize the time I will be away from my loved ones.

To ease these feelings, I made some preparations this summer, including learning Italian through the app Duolingo, practicing the language with my Nonna, and reading books on Italian history and culture. I believe this opportunity will broaden my global perspective, which is a great strength for my major in marketing and myself. Immersing myself and adapting to different cultures will develop the interpersonal skills necessary to thrive in the marketing industry. As this will be my first experience living in another country, I hope to experience all the art, food, music, architecture, and traditions that Italy has to offer.

On Site in Rome, Italy, Fall 2022

The one-month mark of living abroad in Rome approached quicker than I could have imagined. Since the day of my arrival, I can confidently say I have engulfed myself in the Italian culture by expanding my knowledge, not only through sightseeing in Rome, but through my explorations of all that the entire country has to offer. I took a gondola ride in Venice, ate the traditional granita breakfast in Sicily, and enjoyed a Vespa tour to view Rome’s historical landmarks. These are only a few of my experiences from my time here in Italy.

I have gained new relationships with my fellow classmates as we collectively familiarize ourselves with a new environment. Connecting with my professors and local workers near campus has helped me learn more about the culture and understanding one another. It is hard to believe that I have been living abroad for a month; however, I am excited to continue to gain experience in my knowledge, familiarity, involvement, and exposure to a variety of cultures while abroad.

Thoughts and Preparations for My Study Abroad, August 2022

By Kynidi Mundell-Hill, Class of 2024, Communication Arts, Award $5,000

Kynidi Mundell-Hill selfie

As I prepare to go abroad, I think about the many memories and learning experiences I will bring back with me to America. Because this will be my first time out of the country, let alone my first time away from the East Coast, I have been making many preparations such as learning important French phrases and sayings to better connect with the people, as well as researching customs from each country I will visit.

I hope that while I’m abroad I can clearly communicate with the different people I will encounter each day and form meaningful relationships with the other students. As a communications major, I focus a lot on the various forms of interacting with others; I hope that my time abroad will help me better connect with others who are different from me. I have been having slight concerns about whether I will be received well as a foreigner in another country, but I believe going in with an open mind will help ease the transition from my normal routine to something new.       

On Site in Paris, France, and Rome, Italy. Next Stop: Limerick, Ireland, Fall 2022

I believe that my time abroad in the Western Europe Semester program has given me some of the best days of my life. I’m able to take enriching classes in these amazing cities that I am given copious amounts of time to explore.

I began my semester on the Paris campus, and I have to say it is my favorite so far. I think because it’s smaller and a little more intimate, it felt like home. The students in the Discover France program and the staff on campus were wonderful to be around and I miss my favorite bakery every day.

Now that I am on the Rome campus, though very different than the Paris campus, it has its own charm. Because of the size of the Rome campus, I have more opportunities to meet new people. On the Rome campus there are people from not only St. John’s, but other schools as well. This gives students the opportunity to meet people from all over. While the Paris and Rome campuses might be very different, they offer the same opportunities for learning and growth. I am excited to see what the Limerick campus has to offer! 

Thoughts and Preparations for My Study Abroad, August 2022

By Zoe Paraskevas, Class of 2023, Communication Arts, Award $5,000 

Zoe Paraskevas in front of the Trevi Fountain

Having previously lived in Europe, I am beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to return once again thanks to the Gilman Program. I am currently preparing for this adventure by gathering all the essentials I will be needing for my trip, writing down important information I may need while abroad, and doing some last-minute shopping.

My biggest concern for living abroad is the language barrier between me and the locals. While I know most of them speak English, I would have loved to know their language to get a more authentic experience of their culture and country.

My hopes for this trip are that I will be able to expand my knowledge and mindset culturally but also professionally. I look forward to meeting European students studying communications and learning from them. My hope is that this trip will enhance my knowledge in my field and help me gain a new perspective for when I return to the US.

On Site in Rome, Italy, and Limerick, Ireland. Next Stop: Paris, France, Fall 2022

Living in Rome for a month was one of the most unique experiences I’ve had so far. The city was truly mesmerizing and getting to learn about its rich history was fascinating. We visited many historical sights, but also got to travel to different cities in Italy like Florence and Milan, which were each unique in their own way.

During my time in Rome, I grew very close with other students from my program rotation. I’ve made tons of new lifelong friends who I’ve gotten to share my daily life with for the last two months.

We have now moved on to Limerick, Ireland, and have transitioned to a brand-new world. The people here are the friendliest I have ever met, and their culture is truly amazing. It rains a lot and we’ve learned to endure it without umbrellas (like true locals) but it still doesn’t take away from the magic of this land. Our friend group of 18 has become closer than ever as we spend every day together, whether on campus or exploring the country. Overall, this has been an amazing experience and I can’t wait to see what the remainder of it will look like and what awaits us in Paris. 

Thoughts and Preparations for My Study Abroad, August 2022

By Syvanna Bay, Class of 2024, Business, Award $5,000

Syvanna Bay holding a pile of fresh spaghetti in her hands

Since being accepted to study abroad and receiving my Gilman Scholarship, I’ve been making many preparations to go to Rome. Aside from the mandatory things like filling out forms and receiving my visa, I’ve also been doing personal research about Italy to better familiarize myself with the culture before moving there.

I was a little apprehensive to go so far from home considering I’ve never dormed before or stayed outside the country for such a long period of time. However, I feel as if these are normal concerns that just come with going abroad. I know that studying abroad will enrich my education by allowing me to experience the world from another point of view. I hope that I settle in and get the hang of things quickly so I can really make the most of my Roman experience. I’ve only been out of the country a few times for vacation so this will be an eye-opening and new experience for me. I am thankful for the Gilman Scholarship and this opportunity it has given me!

On Site in Rome, Italy, Fall 2022

It’s been over a month since moving to Rome to study abroad—and I can say with confidence that it was one of the best decisions of my college career. Rome is a beautiful city that is rich in culture, which is evident when I go for daily walks and observe the architecture of structures like the Trevi fountain, pantheon, and ancient forums.

I have made so many friends who have introduced me to new things, such as my friends from Poland who encourage me to try new foods and speak new languages. Even when I find myself in unexpected situations, like getting lost on the train, I can count on the hospitality of the locals to help me. Rome has become a second home to me, and between my classes I love to walk around and try new things. I am forever grateful for my experience abroad thus far, and I can’t wait to see what new experiences I have within the upcoming few months.

Thoughts and Preparations for My Study Abroad, August 2022

By Hailey Claude, Class of 2023, Psychology, Award $5,000

Hailey Claude selfie

I am so honored and blessed to be able to be given the opportunity to study abroad with the Gilman Scholarship. As the program start date is approaching rather quickly, I have been preparing myself for my time abroad. I have been researching what Italian culture is like in Rome, ways of transportation in Italy, learning some Italian, and spending time with family before leaving. 

Although I am ecstatic to have this opportunity and live in Rome for about four months, there are some things that I am concerned about. While I have lived in the United States my entire life and have dealt with my own struggles, I am concerned about living in another country. I have never traveled or lived outside of North America, so this feels as if I am “jumping off the deep end.”

Some other concerns include being a woman and a woman of color living in a new country, adjusting to a new culture, and being across the globe from my home. While there are a few concerns about living in a new continent, I do feel as though this opportunity will be vital to my personal and educational development. Experiencing this new culture will be invaluable for my future goals of becoming a well-rounded doctor. With all of this in mind, I imagine that I will persevere through any anxiety and take complete advantage of everything Italy has to offer. I hope to return to the states completely transformed for the better.

On Site in Rome, Italy, Fall 2022

I have been studying abroad for about two months—and this has been an experience I could have never dreamt of! I would have never thought I would be able to live in Rome for four months while also studying psychology. Though this journey seems to be flying by, I have truly been enriched while living in this unique city.

The videos, pictures, and stories I heard about Rome did not prepare me for the reality of being in Rome. I was coming with expectations of something completely different. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

Italy is a beautiful country with so much hospitality and rich culture that I have sincerely enjoyed. Living with students studying similar topics and in the same age range is helpful when living so far away from home. The environment on the campus is quite comforting and I feel as if it is overall supportive. We are all going through this journey together so that has allowed us to bond on a deeper level.

Learning from professors who are professionals in Italy has been a treat. The perspectives that I have gained are invaluable to my future as a citizen of the world and as a future professional. At times, the language barrier can lead to funny situations, but I have learned to adapt quickly while here. While I have already experienced enough for one lifetime living here, I am ready for the new lessons and experiences I will learn in the little time I have left. 

Thoughts and Preparations for My Study Abroad, Summer 2022

By Paige Callaghan, Class of 2023, Communication Arts, Award $5,000

Paige Callaghan sitting in front of the Trevi Fountain

Before leaving to study abroad in Rome as a Gilman scholar, I had several concerns and expectations. Since it was my first time studying abroad and living in another country long-term, I was ambushed with both excitement and nerves. I’d never been away from home for a month. I was worried I’d be homesick, living across the world without my family. There was also the fear of adapting to their way of life and cultural differences.

I wanted to learn about Italy beyond the tourist attractions, meet new people, and build lifelong relationships. My mom’s side of the family is of Italian descent, and I felt going to Italy would be a great opportunity to bond with my mother and grandmother about our heritage. Neither of them has had the chance to visit and I hoped to share my journey with them. I hoped this wouldn’t be just my experience, but our experience.  

As a Communication Arts major, I believe having global experience from a study abroad program is extremely valuable. The very heart of communications lies in the awareness and understanding of different human experiences. I believed this time in Italy would help me better appreciate the Italian culture and language while expanding my own perspective of life beyond the United States. While I worry some aspects may be out of my comfort zone, this newfound independence will build my confidence and develop skills that will be useful in professional settings.

On Site in Rome, Italy, Summer 2022

After spending time in Italy, I’ve found that it’s a beautiful country with a rich culture and welcoming locals. I have enjoyed my time exploring Italy’s unique regions and being exposed to the art, architecture, cuisine, and overall history in each location during my travels.

When we first arrived and attended orientation, I hadn’t realized how many other schools participated in the St. John’s Study Abroad programs. In our group, almost all the other students were from the University of Florida. My friend and I from St. John’s became close with five other girls from the University of Florida; we hung out together in Rome and took our weekend trips in other regions of Italy. I loved getting to meet so many peers from different parts of the United States and being exposed to different perspectives.

As a summer session participant, I only took one three-credit course in Italian I. I enjoyed the freedom the course schedule gave us to travel and explore. Learning the basics of the Italian language felt very useful for communicating with the locals. Our professor also taught us a lot about several regions of Italy and the daily lives of the people, which felt just as important as the language.

While living abroad in a foreign country, I came across unexpected situations and had to adapt. One thing that surprised me was how the Italians eat dinner. While I realized that Italians typically had dinner much later than I did back at home, I wasn’t aware of how eating out is to be treated like an experience. Dining out extends over many courses, with time for socialization. It doesn’t feel as rushed as the dining experience in the US and reinforces how central food is to daily life in Italy.