Alumni Q&A: A Journey of Personal Growth

Kinsey on top of a fortress in Montalcino.
Kinsey on top of a fortress in Montalcino.

Name: Kinsey Brown

Program Location: Viterbo, Italy

Program Term:  Fall 2013

1.    Why did you choose the program that you did?

I mostly chose it because I really wanted to study in Europe, and although I had traveled in Europe, I had not been to Italy before. I also wanted to take history and culture classes, which Viterbo had. So it was really a perfect fit!

2. If or when you study abroad again, where would you like to go? Why?

Everywhere! Either somewhere in Europe or Japan would probably be my top choices. The program in San Sebastian looks incredible!

3.    What are some of your favorite highlights from your time abroad?

I loved my Italian language class and the field trips we took with my Hill Towns class. I also loved the field study class.

4.    In your experience, what are the major benefits of studying abroad?

Not only do you have this incredible chance to travel and learn about places that you may have only read about before, I really feel that studying abroad teaches you so much about yourself. You also have the chance to meet amazing people, both in the city that you’re living in and through your travels. And just experiencing the culture- every city has its own festivals and traditions, that even if only for a short while you are a part of. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime thing.

Kinsey overlooking Tuscany.
Kinsey overlooking Tuscany.

5.    What were some of the special/unique things you were able to do or see?

There were so many! One of the first things we experienced was the Santa Rosa Festival, which is unique to Viterbo and happens in early September. In celebrating their patron saint, it has evolved to an incredible three day event culminating in 100 men carrying a 30 meter statue through the tiny streets of Viterbo. That was incredible. Italy at Christmastime was really beautiful- lots of cities put up beautiful lights and everything feels so festive. And finally, going to Berlin to see the Christmas markets was an incredible experience.

6.    What was a funny cultural experience?

One of the first nights a lot of us were going out to dinner and in Italy it’s tradition to have wine with food. What we didn’t realize though was that the ten of us had ordered three liters instead of three glasses! It was definitely a big shock to see all that wine for the three people who had actually ordered it (we all ended up sharing), but it definitely made us closer to each other immediately.

7.    What did you learn about yourself?

I learned so much about myself and what I’m capable of! I have to admit, when I first left home I was terrified. I was going to be living with three other people I had never met before, and be confronted with all these different changes that I was not used to back home.  But it was one of the most incredible decisions I have ever made. In the beginning, I was also scared to travel or do things by myself. By the end I was able to do daytrips to Florence and Rome by myself, which was an incredible experience as well.

Viterbo Rooftop View
Viterbo Rooftop View

8.    How did studying abroad change you?

It’s changed the way I think about the world. We have the tendency to think of the world as this big, harsh place when in reality no matter how different the traditions or cultures are, everyone has the same ability for compassion and understanding. It’s made me more open to experiencing new things and talking to new people, as well helped me get out of my shell a bit.

9.    What’s one thing you would have done differently?

I think I would have been more open to new experiences. In the beginning especially I had a tendency to be a homebody, especially when it came to going out or getting dinner. I was worried I was spending too much money or I wouldn’t have anything to contribute with my more gregarious USACers and other Italian students. But I’ve now realized that when you take yourself out of your element, even if in a little way you have the chance to experience some truly amazing things.

 

10.  Now that you’re home, how has study abroad impacted your life?

I definitely miss Italy a lot! A lot more than even I thought possible. Studying abroad can change your perspective on everything, even the simplest things like food and driving. It can make you realize that the things you thought were commonplace aren’t in other countries, and how in certain instances maybe that’s a good thing. Although Italy made me realize how much variety and selection we have in America, especially when it comes to food, I miss the quality of products and the time we spent making dinner together, which I don’t really have the chance to do here.

11.  How many years did it/will it take you to graduate?

It will take me five years to graduate. I am currently in my fourth year.

12.  What are you doing now?

I am currently going to school full time as well as working part time in a clothing store. I hope to go to graduate school as well as travel more!

13.  What, in your opinion, are the biggest myths students believe about study abroad?

I think one of the biggest myths is how expensive studying abroad is. I really feel like it’s as expensive as you make it be. Through budgeting as well as being more choosy when it comes to going out vs. making dinner at home, or maybe not travelling one weekend to have the chance to explore your own home city a bit more you can make study abroad within your means.

14.  What advice would you tell students trying to decide whether or not to study abroad?

I would definitely say, Go! It’s an absolutely incredible opportunity to explore the world exactly how you want to, while getting the chance to learn and live in a place of your choosing. You have the chance to make lifelong friends and learn so much about yourself. Obviously it’s a choice you need to make on your own, but I am so glad I said yes.