AGEC Student Spends Spring Semester in Italy
Written by Jo Thomas, Academic Advisor, Agricultural Economics
Megan Arnold (Junior; Coatesville) has always wanted to broaden her horizons outside of small town Indiana and the United States. Last Spring, she chose to study abroad in Italy and found the experience challenged her in so many ways academically, professionally, and personally.
Going abroad required preparation ahead of time. Megan noted that some of the most helpful things she did included talking to other people who have studied abroad, reading travel blogs online, and researching Italy as much as she could. She found that there was no true way to be fully prepared for the transformational experience, but was glad she did some research before she left.
Spending a semester in Italy presented many new opportunities to learn and gain global industry awareness. Megan emphasized that she found the world is so much bigger than we make it out to be. “I was the only person in my program with any connection to agriculture. It was hard not to be able to connect with anyone about living on a farm or growing up with animals- but I had the opportunity to educate about agriculture. I explained what 4-H and FFA were to fellow students in my program, discussed how innovative technology is impacting the industry, and had honest conversations about controversial topics facing the world. There's power in perspective and this was the most interesting and impactful thing that I learned while abroad.”
When asked what surprised her the most during her experience, Megan explained, “One thing that surprised me while abroad was the complete change of pace. In the United States and especially in college, we are known to be busy, busy, busy, but in Europe life is lived at a slower pace. Europeans really like to take life slowly and at their own pace. It was surprising and hard to get used to, but proved to be extremely beneficial. I don't have to have something to do at all times, it's okay to slow down and enjoy the things going on around me.”
Along with cultural awareness, Megan was also able to build on skill sets and grow her professional network. Before she left for Italy, she didn’t know anyone else in the study abroad program. Now, she has friends from across the country who shared in the same experience. During her time studying abroad she enrolled in a Business Consulting class where they worked with an actual Italian company and make recommendations to their multi-million dollar operation. “We were working as if we were full-time international business consultants including communicating through the language barrier and international differences in tradition and strategy. This class alone pushed me to be more confident in myself and pushed me outside of my comfort zone in a professional setting.”
Megan found her experience in Italy to be once in a lifetime and life changing. This opportunity broadened her perspective and allowed her to truly get to know herself. While she never imagined she would spend three months abroad, she is glad she did.