Top tips for college freshmen

Mari Moroz is currently a sophomore at Drake University is Des Moines, IA where she is studying Public Relations and Marketing. Mari is heavily involved with Student Alumni Association, is currently Director of Recruitment for Delta Gamma sorority, and created her own organization on Drake’s campus for recreational dance. Traveling is one of the most important parts of her life; she spent a semester studying abroad in Rome, Italy and traveling around Europe. Mari hopes to one day run PR for an international non-profit, to combine all of her passions.

Life changing opportunities can present themselves to college students at the most unexpected times. Theses moments could appear in a lecture from a professor that consistently challenges your perspectives on life, in an important decision that you might have to make regarding your career or social life, or even in a conversation with a peer. These moments are personally what continue to make my college experience such an inspiring and thought-provoking one.
My life changing moment in college started out as a single decision and then turned into an entire semester. This past October, I was accepted to study abroad in Rome, Italy. I have spent the past three months living and traveling through Europe in an adventure of a lifetime because of that decision on a sunny, fall day last semester. I had always known that I wanted to study abroad during my time in college, but I had never really thought it would be probable. When I mustered up the courage to finally apply and received word of acceptance, my dream became real, but there was no way to fully prepare for the transformation I experienced and continue to experience in Rome this semester.
When I first got to Rome, nerves and adrenaline were what kept me afloat in my whirlwind of thoughts, dreams and challenges that were presented to me. Not only was I learning a new language but I was also in an unfamiliar, big city with next to no one that I knew. I was nervous and afraid of the unknown, missing the comfort and familiarity of my dorm and classes back in America. Something that I was not told enough before coming abroad was that the first few weeks are the hardest on you emotionally and mentally, so I was ill prepared for my exhaustion and fear. But once a routine began to form and the student in my program became closer and closer, Rome felt more and more like home.
In between taking classes and eating delicious pasta, my favorite parts of my weeks in Rome are the minutes or even hours that I get lost. Wandering through the cobblestone streets of Rome with an Italian leather bag, sunglasses, and no working Internet or map on a sunny day always brings a smile to my face. It is in these moments where I feel most at home in the city, even though I may not fully know where I am. By deciding to stop worrying about directions and simply look at the beauty around me at any moment in the day makes me feel independent and introspective. I constantly find myself being fascinated by a new aspect of Roman culture; the history weaved into every building, monument or piece of art; the corruption of the Italian government; the contrast between the rough Roman attitudes and the “Minnesota Nice” that I am used to; the beautiful Italian language heard on the bus, in the streets, and through jumbled conversations I attempt. All these things can be admired roaming aimlessly through Rome and consistently remind me how blessed and lucky I am to be experiencing such a historical culture.
Before I left for my trip, a group of friends who had studied abroad in the past gave me some advice that has stuck with my throughout my experience- the bond you create with the fellow students in your program are ones that can’t be described or broken, and not every day has to be an adventure. These two tips have proven to be true time and time again, as I constantly find myself amazed at the fast friendships I have made here and at the realization that my life, while being in Rome, is still my life and not an Eat, Pray, Love movie. I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with college peers when I return, and also being able to take what I have learned about myself and the world while in Rome and use that information to further my life and college career in a more meaningful way.

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