Traveling abroad has done nothing but benefit me as a student and a person. My whole life I haven't had an urge to travel the world, but when I heard the Sport Studies Department was traveling to Rome, Italy, and Athens, Greece, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I have never been out of the country and only flown once because I had to. So needless to say you can only imagine what was going through my mind hearing we would be flying 20-plus hours total! I was out of my comfort zone, traveling with 10 people I barely knew. I am very thankful that Michael White (director of the Master of International Sport Management program) made sure everyone felt at home throughout the departure process.
Once arriving in Italy, we were all gas, no brakes. We had tours and activities planned from the moment we got up at 7 a.m. until we went to bed at 8 p.m. We started our first day with a bike tour through downtown Rome, with a backdrop of the Colosseum. We actually got to tour the inside of the Colosseum the next day, and this was one of the most fascinating things of my entire trip. This piece of history was just unreal. Trying to wrap your head around how they could possibly construct something like this back then, and then learning what took place inside, was just something else.
On another day we traveled to the Paralympic Committee, where those with disabilities can train and compete. I have always had an interest in working in an environment like this, as my cousin with Down Syndrome has motivated me to do so. Learning about what goes on at the facility and having meaningful conversations with staff members was inspiring. Traveling to the Sistine Chapel was another highlight of my trip. It's not every day you get to see such well-preserved artwork from a world-class artist painted on the ceiling.
We were also lucky enough to experience a major soccer match between Lazio and Verona in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy. It was an exciting day for me, a sports fanatic. We purchased our team gear and headed into the stadium holding more than 70,000 spectators. The atmosphere was electric. It was much more exciting than any sporting event I have experienced here in the U.S. I could feel the passion and love these loyal fans had for their teams. We were all standing in our chairs, cheering and chanting, as all the flags were waving. It was an opportunity of a lifetime.
After a 10-hour plane ride home the journey came to an end. This group of 10 students who didn’t really know much about each other turned into lifelong friends with memories we'll cherish forever. This learning experience opened my eyes in ways I never imagined. I can’t wait to see where Michael takes us in 2023.
Oh yeah! I'm sure you're wondering, “What about the pizza and pasta?” It was just as you would imagine. But life is full of “pasta-bilities” so you will just have to go abroad and find out for yourself!
Check out more exciting international experiences on our student authored study abroad blog, Beyond Friendly.