Attallah College undergrad students Carly Croft and Flo Park share their powerful experiences of studying abroad in Florence, Italy, and Hong Kong, respectively. Each enjoyed unexpected discoveries and opportunities beyond their course study, including experiencing new cultures and forming new friendships.

Carly Croft ’19
Junior IES major, with minors in Psychology and Language & Literacy

Carly Croft in Florence, Italy

Carly Croft in Florence, Italy

When I came to Chapman, I knew that I wanted to study abroad and took note of the opportunity to study Italian. I immediately began to dream of studying in Italy and felt truly blessed when I discovered that I would be able to do so and stay on track with my IES major.

I planned for months, making sure I had completed the necessary paperwork for the trip of a lifetime and any materials I would need to bring with me. One thing I hadn’t anticipated was the sheer shock that I would encounter when I landed. After 12 hours on a plane and several attempts to adjust to the time change, I had arrived in Florence.

Initially, I was struck with fear as I felt disoriented and alone without a translator to assist my incredibly broken Italian. Even after our first few classes that included a few lessons on basic Italian phrases and etiquette, I still felt a nervous aura floating above me. Looking back, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that this grey cloud vanished, but it did fade with time. I was able to meet dozens of locals who were able to help guide my pronunciation and teach me new words in a kind manner. They showed me that they were proud of me for trying, rather than ashamed that I was butchering their beautiful language.

Eventually, I grew comfortable in the city; it felt like home as we walked the streets every single day and every single night. I knew the streets in Florence better than I know the streets in my own hometown. I enjoyed the sights much more as well. When wandering, it was highly likely that I would turn a corner and stumble upon a beautiful church. The history of the country is astounding, and all of that lives within the beautiful marble walls that were crafted with unparalleled artistry and precision. The course outline never said I would be learning to appreciate every aspect of how this city affected me, because I had only been informed that I would be learning about pieces of art within a classroom setting.

I found myself on the other side of the one-way mirror that study abroad students are scrutinized through; I was one of them now. Looking back, I now understand why people with similar experiences rave endlessly about them. I gained this understanding through each forkful of pasta and bite of panini. I gained understanding in each brushstroke I appreciated. I gained understanding with each smile from a new friend. Emotions in their rawest form existed for me in Florence because I knew my time there was limited; I became hyper-aware of my surroundings in a desperate attempt to capture each memory. I wanted to swallow up the entire city and take it with me, and I found myself desperately scrambling to fit everything into my final days.

This trip opened my eyes to how I should approach life with the same attitude of appreciation no matter where I am living. It is critical that I spend my time wisely and take advantage of each day. I didn’t have enough time in Florence, and I don’t think I will ever have enough time to fully enjoy Florence. There is so much to do, see, and taste. I couldn’t be more grateful to have gone abroad, and I eagerly await my next adventure to my new favorite home away from home.

Flo Park ’18
Third-year IES and Economics major, graduating Fall 2018

Flo Park in China

Flo Park in China

Studying abroad at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, I was able to immensely grow as an educator, learner, and global citizen through the volunteer teachings at rural elementary schools and through friendships.

I initially volunteered at one school but chose to also volunteer at another school, as it came to my attention that there was a shortage of volunteers at that school. Every week, I would teach a class of 20 students on an assigned topic given by the school.

Through the encounters with these learners, I became aware that despite the language barriers, learners clearly showed interest and engaged when there was a music component to the lessons. Many of these learners learned English through pop music, and it was to my delight that through music I was able to manage the classroom. Initially, I tried to grab their attention with shushing and “one, two, three, eyes on me.” To my surprise, when I turned on the hokey pokey, the learners followed my actions and quickly became more attentive. As an educator, I gained more insight into managing a classroom, and as a learner, after using different techniques I realized that there is always more than one way to get the attention of learners.

Another aspect of exchange that allowed me to grow was friendship. I quickly became friends with Felicity, an aspiring History teacher from Sydney, Australia. As an exchange student, I mostly planned to travel to places that Instagram stars and bloggers recommend. Felicity, who wanted to go to museums and historical sites, helped me discover the significance in learning the history of other countries in depth, which enabled me to realize the context. Had I not gone with her to most of the museums in Hong Kong, I would have never learned that Hong Kong was not only occupied by the English but also occupied by Japan. For that reason, there are Japanese influences in Hong Kong today, such as merchandise and food. At the Kowloon Walled City Park, I was able to see the remains of a city that used to be a haven for crime and debauchery due to its enclosure and small scale. Through visiting this park, I was able to understand the economics within the city.

As a result of my abroad experience, I, a global citizen, learned the importance of being educated on the history of a society. By doing so, it allows me to see how these societies were developed and influenced into what they are today.

Excerpt from the Attallah College Undergraduate Student Newsletter.