Life-changing Experiences: Study Abroad Student Natalie Miller

Natalie Miller is a rising sophomore at the University of Southern California (USC) who spent her freshman year studying abroad at JCU. During her time at JCU, Natalie was an Italy Reads Volunteer Mentor for both Fall 2023 and Spring 2024. She also regularly contributed to the JCU Athletics Department blog. Natalie is majoring in Communications and Broadcasting.

Tell us about your background.
I was born and raised in Southern California and love the beach, movies, and sports. I’m active in my community, where I volunteer for several local organizations and work as a swim teacher. 

Natalie Miller
Natalie Miller

What made you decide to study abroad at JCU?
It was a big leap of faith for me! I had never left the United States before coming to Italy, but I love learning about the world and different cultures. Living in Italy has allowed me to travel across Europe and to explore and experience those cultures firsthand.

How did you get involved with the Italy Reads program?
I had been looking for something where I could get involved in the community and heard about the program in my Italian class and found it interesting. After my first meeting with an Italian high school class, I loved being able to talk and exchange stories with the students.

What were the most challenging and rewarding aspects of volunteering for the Italy Reads program?
I definitely have a higher respect for teachers now. Sometimes classes go quiet and you have to keep going and find new ways to get participation and conversation flowing. I have met some amazing people and shared stories about our different cultures. 

How was your experience mentoring Italian high school students?
What I didn’t realize when I began is that Italian high school students are very similar to me in both age and attitude. Although we are from opposite sides of the world, we all have similar interests and challenges. I have been fortunate to become friends with several students and share stories of our hometowns.

How did studying abroad at JCU enrich you?
I have become more independent and worldly. I had the privilege to spend my first year of college abroad, experiencing new things, and making the most incredible memories. Rome is a beautiful city, rich with history, and I feel like I have truly been able to explore and take in corners of the city I wouldn’t be able to appreciate in a short visit.

What advice would you give to students who are considering studying abroad?
Studying abroad has changed my life! It is not an easy decision to leave the comfort of your home, native language, and friends to study abroad, but the rewards are innumerable. I have made a close group of friends and traveled extensively, learning about new cultures and traditions, and trying new foods that I otherwise would have never been able to experience in California. These are experiences that I will never forget.

Anything else you’d like to add?
My study abroad experience at JCU has taught me valuable life skills and I feel as though I have matured very quickly. I realize how fortunate I am to have lived in one of the most vibrant and historic cities in the world, along with cultivating new, close friendships. I’ve also been able to further my passion for broadcasting and media arts while in Italy, contributing to the JCU athletics blog. These are experiences that will shape my life.