Austin Crosley ’18
My study abroad experience has left me incredibly thankful and humbled. As the French novelist Gustave Flaubert put it, “travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” I felt as though I have seen so much of the world, but as I look at a globe I see I still have only seen but very tiny piece of it. I am grateful for my family, Wabash College, and the Givens family for allowing me such a grand expedition of the self and of the world.
My study abroad program began in Florence for a two weeks intensive class in survival Italian. This proved useful in keeping from starving, because I then had the tools to order food and ask directions. It was a great plan to begin a program in Florence before entering the enormous city of Rome. Here I was able to get comfortable in a foreign place without the added stress of the big city. In Florence I got to experience amazing art and architecture like the statue of David and Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower (often referred to as The Duomo as it is the largest masonry dome in the world).
This is me standing in a long line to enter the Château de Versailles, which housed King Louis XIV. This is one of the most iconic representations of French baroque styled architecture. My visit to Paris and the Château de Versailles was made possible by the generous scholarship of the Givens family.
After getting my bearings In Florence and travelling to some important cities in northern Italy like Pisa, Siena, and Venice I finally made it to Rome. In the first weeks I visited all the major sites and got to know my classmates. I only started to truly engross myself in the new culture after the excitement of a new place started to cool although walking past the Vatican every day to school doesn’t get that old. It wasn’t just a goal to see Italy, but to feel like I was a part of Italy. I soon learned that Rome is not a representation of Italy, but in reality Italy is very diverse place. From region to region one can find different dialects, local dishes, ideologies, and influences. I could compare Rome to New York more easily than comparing Rome to Sorrento or Perugia. However, one thing that most Italian cities have in common are amazing churches. I think I may have visited about fifty, each as beautiful as the last. Sharpening my previous statement, I only started getting engrossed in the Roman culture after I settled into my new home.
One of the most enriching moments of my study abroad experience was getting teach English to elementary students in Rome every Tuesday and Thursday. It was quite the challenge as it was my first time teaching, I don’t know Italian, and the teachers knew very little English. Working through the language barrier and experiencing very human moments of understanding, curiosity, and happiness with the young students made me hopeful in spite of so much change and confusion in the world. One of these moments came after the presidential election and a couple months away from home that left me in a slump. In one of the classrooms I was helping two students with constructing a sentence and a classmate who had a mental condition interrupted and pulled my attention towards him for help, then I would go back to the other students and I would be called back to the boy. In each of these moments the students remained patient and understanding of the situation. It was their consideration for the boy with special needs that reminded me that people are all at their root good. This moment along with many others like it gave me hope for people amidst what I have been reading in the news of hate crimes and mindless violence.
I surprised myself by studying abroad and getting into the classroom in different way, and I am truly grateful for every new friendship and idea that was a product of my trip. I wouldn’t have been able to get outside of my comfort zone, or outside the bubble that is Wabash College, or the bigger bubble that is the United States without a push from friends and family, but I am grateful and overjoyed that I did, because it allowed me to experience friendships and perspectives I would have never been acquainted with otherwise. This trip has inspired further travel in the future!
Kids all over the world know the meaning of the term “selfie,” so when I uttered the word I had an avalanche of volunteers. These were some of the kids I had the honor of helping with English in an elementary school in Rome!