Taking Independence to a New Level: Study Abroad Student Abbey Buetow

Abbey Buetow is a freshman from Northeastern University, who is majoring in International Affairs and International Business, with a concentration in Global Business and Strategy. Abbey studied abroad at JCU in Fall 2022.

Abbey Buetow

Abbey Buetow

How did you decide to study abroad at JCU? 
Northeastern has a program called “NUin” that allows students to study abroad for their first semester of college. I was accepted to this program and was given a few options for places to study abroad, but Rome immediately caught my eye. It had always been on my bucket list to go to Italy, and this seemed like such a wonderful opportunity. The University is in an amazing area, the classes offered are super interesting, and the community of people is so kind and welcoming. One of my favorite experiences was getting to be a part of the theater community at JCU. It felt particularly surreal to be reading scenes from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar 15 minutes away from where Caesar was assassinated. Another one of my favorite experiences was dancing and singing along to the musicians in Piazza Trilussa. Singing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” in the heart of Rome was unexpected but so much fun.

What was the most surprising part of your study abroad experience?
I was surprised by how easy it is to talk to people. Whether it be locals, tourists, or other study abroad students, it’s so much easier to start a conversation than in the U.S. When traveling around, I found myself making friends almost effortlessly. When I went to Cinque Terre, in the Liguria region, I was swimming when an Italian man came up to me and gave me his goggles so that I could look underwater. It was such a simple act, but it really stuck with me because I couldn’t imagine that happening in the U.S. Interactions just felt much more relaxed overall. It was a surprise, but I loved that aspect of it.

How was your experience in the classroom similar and different from your experience at your university in the U.S.?
For the most part, classes are similar to what you would find in U.S. colleges, so it’s not a hard transition from American schooling. JCU does have a lot of unique classes though. I took a course called “Ancient Rome and its Monuments,” which was an on-site class where we would meet at a location around Rome and walk to different ancient monuments. I remember thinking about how crazy it was that I was having class in the Colosseum or presenting about the Temple of Hadrian in front of the actual monument. One of the other things that are special about JCU is the small class size. You are never really in a lecture hall setting. This presents an opportunity to get to know the other students in your class and your teacher on a deeper level.

What did you learn about yourself from your time abroad? How did this experience enrich you?
My semester at JCU was my first semester of college ever, which was a little intimidating I will admit. I loved studying abroad, but it was not all roses and sunshine. There were days that I missed my family and friends, but during those hard times, I had my JCU community to help me. Having to adapt to a whole new environment where I knew no one at first taught me that no matter what life throws at me, I can get through it. Studying abroad takes the concept of independence to a whole new level. You will make friends, but there are some things you will have to learn on your own. In my case, for every difficult moment, there were more happy moments. Besides learning about myself, I also got to learn about a different country! Being in the heart of Rome is quite an experience. Trastevere is constantly full of bustling crowds and music, and you’re less than a half-hour walk from most major monuments. I miss being able to walk to the Vatican whenever I felt like it. I had VIP access to so much Italian culture and I genuinely learned so much during my time in Rome. I was constantly being challenged, learning, and growing from my experiences.

What advice would you give to students who are hesitant about studying abroad?
It’s going to be scary and it’s going to be stressful, but it’s also going to be one of the best experiences of your life. Stepping out of your comfort zone unlocks a newfound freedom and independence that will stick with you for the rest of your life. You’ll make friends that will become like family and do things that some people only dream of in their lifetime. There will be bad days, but those days are the ones that teach you that you can make it through.