Embracing Change: Study Abroad Student Noah Spergel

Originally from Bala Cynwyd, a town near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Noah Spergel is a rising senior at the University of Delaware, where he studies English Literature with a minor in Art. Noah studied abroad at JCU in the Spring 2023 semester, and he decided to return for an additional semester in Fall 2023.

Noah Spergel
Noah Spergel

What made you decide to study abroad at JCU and come back for an additional semester?
I’ve always wanted to study abroad in college, but I never knew exactly where I would end up. During my first year of college, I purchased multiple posters to decorate my freshman dorm. One of them was a photo of a vast sea of marble ruins with a glorious sunset in the background, which I later learned was the Roman Forum.

The following year, when it was time for me to pick which country to study abroad in, I caught a glimpse of a familiar image on the University of Delaware study abroad portal: the Roman Forum as the thumbnail photo for the program at JCU. My mind fluttered to all the things that made Italy perfect: the food, the architecture, the cobblestone streets, and again, the food. Just like that, the decision was made.

And it was an amazing experience. About halfway through my study abroad semester in Rome, I decided that I would find any way I could to extend my experience for another term. This time I had to find independent ways since the University of Delaware wasn’t offering the same program. A little elbow grease and persistence later, and now I am preparing for my senior year fall semester in Rome.

What was your best experience while studying in Rome?
My best experience while studying in Rome was my highly enjoyable lifestyle. I was taking all art classes for the first time in my life, thanks to my idea to get an art minor in Rome. My job as an art student at JCU was to study the great beauty of life in Rome. Walking the cobblestone streets, getting into adventures, learning art skills, and making friends were literally engrained into my lifestyle. Also, people in Italy live slower and happier lives and I was able to embrace that. Many Italians claim that they “work to live” as opposed to my home country where many people “live to work.”

How was your experience in the classroom similar and different from your experience at your university in the U.S.?
My classroom experience at JCU was truly one of a kind because I had classmates and teachers from all around the world. I was able to meet and learn from people from different cultures and perspectives. So as a result of my education abroad, I am becoming more worldly. Also, many of my art classes have been on site, which has allowed me to learn from Rome’s rich artistic history up close. JCU classrooms are similar to the facilities in U.S. institution, but the campus is in Rome, Italy!

What was the most surprising part of your study abroad experience? What is your best study abroad story?
I think the most surprising part of my experience was how much energy I was able to maintain over the course of the semester. I was having so much fun while I was awake that by the time my head touched the pillow, I’d be out. But when I woke up, I was ready and excited for the adventure to continue. This segues into one of my favorite study-abroad stories.

One Friday morning in January my friends and I woke up at 2:30 am for a trip to Paris but we missed the bus to the airport. So, the next hour consisted of lime scootering through Trastevere on cobblestone streets, at an hour when the streets were empty and the city belonged to us, meeting up with two more travel companions, and then Ubering to the airport in time for our flight. Once in Paris, we were worried that we would not make it in time for our 9:00 am reservation at the Louvre, but our Parisian taxi driver rose to the challenge and at 9:30 am I was standing a few feet away from the Mona Lisa, surrounded by travelers from all over the world.

That weekend we ate croissants, cheese, French French fries, crepes, chocolate, steak, Thai food, and more croissants. We walked up the stairs of the Eiffel Tower. We did so much, on barely any sleep, and the whole weekend felt like a dream. The trip was filled with constant outbreaks of delirious and happy laughter. It was still the first month of my study abroad experience and it really set the tone for the next three months.

What did you learn about yourself from your time abroad? How did this experience enrich you?
I’ve learned that I’m an adventurer who loves embracing change and wants to live life as an artist. This experience made me realize my dream to travel the world and create the feeling of home for myself in places that you see in movies.

What advice would you give to students who are hesitant about studying abroad?
Do as much as you can, try to maximize your exploring time and minimize scrolling time, and be open to all the new experiences that are waiting for you.

What are your plans for the future?
After my upcoming Fall 2023 semester at JCU, I have one more semester at my home university and then I’ll graduate. From there, I want to save up for film school in Europe. Potentially the Rome International Film School.