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A Second Home

Contributor: Michelle Lee

One of the greatest perks of college is being able to explore! At JMU, there are so many study abroad programs that students can apply to, whether it's for the Fall semester, Spring semester, or just for the summer. It's a great way to help students to step out of their own culture and discover another one.

Two summers ago, I studied abroad to Urbino, Italy to study Multimedia Journalism, and it was the best experience of my life!

As a Media Arts and Design major, the program helped me in my field of study because of the things that I learned there. I was trained to take effective photography and videography, to write and maintain for the web, and to write feature articles.

Then for the final project, all of the students were assigned to find some aspect of Italian culture, write a feature story on it, and then create a photo slideshow or short video relating to the story. Consider yourself invited to read my article!

Although studying abroad at Italy was a great academic experience, it was even more rewarding outside of the classroom. But in the beginning of the program, I didn’t know it would turn out like that. Studying abroad was the first time that I had left the U.S. by myself, and being alone brought a lot of mixed feelings. I didn't have my family with me, I didn't know anyone in the program, and I didn't know what to expect out of being in a new environment. I was very excited, but I was also very scared.

Ceramic painter Silvio Biagini

Overtime though, I was thankful that I had taken the risk to go abroad. I met a lot of great people and made many friends (who I still keep in touch with today!). I wrote my story on an aging ceramic painter named Silvio Biagini, and he was the most passionate man I had ever met! He not only told me about his life as a painter, but he also taught me a lot about Renaissance art and why preserving tradition is important for the future of art.

I also became great friends with the student translators that I worked with. One of them, named Luca Ambrogiani, took some of the students from our program to a lot of famous Italian restaurants and to places with great sceneries!

Italy had many other perks to it as well, such as the Nutella-filled desserts, the coffee, the cats on the streets, the graffiti on the walls, kisses on cheeks from local Italians as warm greetings, and the structure of the buildings.

In just one month, I had made friends and memories that eased the feeling of missing home. The study abroad program gave me the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone to explore more of the world! I didn't have to be afraid to go to another country and make it my second home. In fact, I had the best time of my life while abroad, and in the end I realized that I had nothing to be scared of in the beginning.

So whether you're an International student coming to JMU, or a JMU student from the U.S. leaving the country to study abroad, do not be scared. No matter how lonely or uncertain the journey may feel at first, it always ends with a new experience and great memories. You will love it on campus and feel at home in no time!