Into the Unknown.

Guest Post By: Junior studying Marketing, Sydney Kuehner. During Winter Quarter 2022, Sydney studied abroad with Foster Faculty and fellow Foster students on the Business Italy Program in Rome, Italy.

If someone asked me to describe my Rome study abroad experience in one word, I would say growth. The trip was one of the biggest learning experiences of my life. Not just in the classroom or in the country, but in myself. Being in a new country alone stretches you in ways you could never imagine. I learned more about how I interact with the world and how to interact with people— whose lives are vastly different from my own— than in any other experience I have ever had.

The language barrier was one of the clearest cultural shocks I had when I arrived. I always assumed with the location and high tourist population that I would have no trouble communicating with people, but I quickly learned this was not the case. Having no knowledge of the language, besides what 3 weeks of Duolingo gets you, I learned the nonverbal communication that is so prevalent in the country, as well as how to rephrase things I said to get my point across.

The professors worked hard to adjust the classes to ensure we experienced life out of the classroom. They were also very approachable, allowing students the unique opportunity to build strong connections with them that would be difficult back at UW because of class size. Having this chance was valuable and made the courses more engaging, so the “study” part of study abroad felt more manageable.

The most important things to know when you study abroad are that you will be in uncomfortable situations, and to be confident in being yourself. There were times I wanted to fly home after class or a bad interaction, but it is important to remind yourself why you came and to lean into the unknown. My proudest moments looking back started as some of the worst moments in my life. Working through the problems I encountered allowed me to change the memory of those moments and showed me how much I am capable of. It is hard to stretch yourself in a place where you feel at home, which is why I am so grateful for my time abroad and could not recommend it to other students enough.