A Once in a Lifetime Experience: Study Abroad Student Sydney Schneider

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Sydney Schneider is a visiting student from the University of Notre Dame, where she is Vice President of a Catholic student service and evangelization group and a tutor for the Academic Services for Student Athletes Office. She is also a clarinetist and a religious education teacher for middle school students. A Theology and History major, Sydney is spending Fall 2017 studying abroad at JCU.

Sydney Scneider

Study Abroad student Sydney Schneider

Why did you decide to study abroad in Rome/Italy?
I chose to study abroad in Rome because I thought it provided the perfect intersection of my two majors, History and Theology. It’s a completely different and enhanced experience when you can visit the city of the historical figures you are researching.

How did you become interested in Italy/Italian language and culture?
I first became interested in Italy and Italian language and culture when I began researching my family history with my dad. We discovered the small town in Southern Italy where my great-great-great grandfather lived before emigrating to America. In learning the Italian language, I felt that in many ways I was reconnecting with my family’s past, and that sparked a great desire to see the country that my ancestors called home.

How is your Italian class at JCU going?
I have really enjoyed my Italian class at JCU because it includes many students who have studied the language for years and have lived in Italy for quite some time. Learning with other students who are proficient in the language has allowed me to greatly develop my conversational skills.

What do you like best about Rome/Italy?
I love that there is always something new to explore in Rome. Every street corner offers a Church, monument, or ruin. Even after spending several months here I feel I have hardly scratched the surface of what Rome has to offer. I also enjoy seeing the Rome that most tourists are not able to see. Studying abroad has given me the opportunity to volunteer outside of the city center. I teach English to children who call Rome their home, and by speaking to them I am able to learn a bit more about the day-to-day happenings in Rome.

What was your biggest surprise?
I wanted to visit the town where my great-great-great grandparents lived in Italy. I emailed the town secretary to find out the best way to get to the town from Rome, and the secretary forwarded the email to the town historian, who happened to be one of my distant relatives! Now I will have the opportunity to reconnect with some of my long-lost family members.

How easy or difficult was making friends?
I found it relatively easy to make friends here in Rome. Most people who are studying abroad are eager to try new things and meet new people, so it’s quite easy to find people to explore with.

What are your future plans?
I hope to obtain a Ph.D. in United States History and teach at a university in the U.S.

What’s your advice to other students who are considering studying abroad in Rome/Italy?
It can be daunting to decide to go abroad, but it’s an experience that provides so much personal growth. There will certainly be struggles along the way, but each struggle provides a fantastic learning experience, and the amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experiences make the struggles worth it.