Abroad in Italy

Guest Post by: Adrian Goodwin is a Junior studying Finance and Information Systems.This summer, Adrian participated in the Foster Rome Program at the UW Rome Center in Italy.

If you asked me before my freshman year at the University of Washington what are the chances I study abroad during my time at UW I would’ve plainly said “zero”. During that time, I was so set on certain goals that I wanted to accomplish: finish my degree in four years, get good grades, and a job I would enjoy after graduating.  I didn’t invest much time into activities that didn’t contribute to the accomplishment of those goals. Fast forward a year and a half, and my grades excelled and I was happy with the progress I was making towards my initial goals. But at the same time, I felt as if I was going through the motions in college and not taking full advantage of all the opportunities I had to grow and develop as a person. Two key personality traits that we have studied in class have defined how I live my life. I have always had high conscientiousness, which is the ability to have a strong work ethic, be dependable, and organized in tasks that you are completing. I also found myself constantly engaging in accomplishment striving, experience. My curiosity and creativity for exploring new activities lacked in a big way. Through my first year and half of college, I hadn’t joined any clubs and didn’t go out too many social events. This led to me having a fixed mindset: I didn’t look for opportunities for growth. I didn’t seek new activities to try because I only wanted to participate in tasks where I felt comfortable.  I had this realization in the fall quarter of this past year, and I was determined to change the path that I was on. This realization led me to the decision to study abroad in Rome, with the hope that I could increase my ability to be open to new experiences while at the same time changing from a fixed mindset to one of growth.

When I first arrived in Italy, I was more eager than nervous for the program because I was challenging myself to get out of my comfort zone and experience something new. I grew up in the Seattle area, and have never lived more than 30 minutes away from home. I wanted to see what it is like to live a culturally different place that is far from what I have always known. I only knew one other person on this trip before coming, so I was excited to meet new people from the program and start to build friendships that would continue once we get back to Seattle. But looking back now as the trip comes to a close, the events that have had the biggest impact on me are the encounters and conversations that I have had with people from outside the program whether it was Italians or foreign travelers. There are a handful of these experiences I have had in Rome but I am going to share two particular stories from the trip that have had a profound impact on me. 

My first meaningful example of engaging with Italians on the trip came from the first weekend when our group went to Ladispoli beach. After spending time with other UW students, Vince, Ian (UW Rome Intern), and I split off from the group to go explore. We ended up finding these sand volleyball courts where younger Italian kids were playing. After observing for twenty minutes, we decided that we were going to try and ask to play. I had taken Italian 101 in the spring to prepare for these types of small talk conversations once I got to Italy so I was excited to use my Italian. After a quick conversation, the game was on. Went spent about an hour playing with these kids and it was honestly the most fun I have had on the trip. Engaging in small talk with them, laughing, and learning their names was so enjoyable. A couple of months ago, my instincts would’ve been to just stay with the rest of the group at the beach and to not go explore. But by pushing myself to be more open to new experiences, I created one of the best memories I have of my time spent in Rome. Looking towards the future of when I’m back home in Seattle, I’m going to continue to push myself to be open to new experiences and I have set a goal of joining two Foster Business clubs next year. This goal will allow me to network and meet fellow Foster students while continuing to allow me to develop a desire to explore and try new activities.

The second meaningful encounter came on our train ride to Cinque Terre our second weekend in Italy. I was sitting next to nobody that I knew from the program. My initial instincts were to just put my headphones in and zone out everyone around me for the next four hours. But I decided to challenge myself to make conversation with fellow passengers. I ended up having a two-hour conversation with two groups of people: Giustino and Stefano from Naples, and Joel and Matt from Australia. We spent time sharing our stories of where we come from and why we were in Italy. It was fascinating to learn about their cultures and personalities and by doing so, it made me realize that the world is so much bigger than my perspective. This culture shock is one of the most important and rewarding experiences that has happened to me on this trip. This interaction increased my cultural sensitivity and awareness.  The ability to understand that not everyone comes from the same background as you is crucial to understand for a potential future manager and leader of a company. This learning experience is something that I can take back to UW at my on-campus job as well as future employment opportunities. This upcoming year I will be the student-lead at the DRS testing center. I will be in charge of coordinating work-related tasks between my co-workers and training new hires. Instead of having a fixed mindset of checking off the boxes on the job description, I want to push myself towards a growth mindset to learn more about my co-workers and their backgrounds while being more open to their suggestions. By setting these goals, I have realized that changing my mindset from fixed to growth not only impacts my ability to learn and challenge myself but is also infectious when I interact with and lead others around me.

As the program is coming to end, I can say with one hundred percent certainty that I made the right choice in studying abroad. I honestly wish everyone on this trip knew me before coming on this trip to see how much I have changed as a person in terms of personality and mindset. I am looking forward to being an ambassador of the Foster Rome program whether I am a representative at the study abroad fair next year, or come in to the last pre-departure meeting to share my impactful experiences with the upcoming 2020 cohort.   I am excited to use all the lessons I have learned both inside and outside the classroom here in Rome and apply them in appropriate situations back home in Seattle.