CEA Directory

Alumni Ambassadors


California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo

Rome, Italy

Fall 2016

Julia Zarella, Alumni Ambassador

1. What has your experience abroad taught you about the rest of the world?

My experience of studying abroad taught me that there WAS a rest of the world. I was lucky enough to experience more of the world than I have in my lifetime, visiting a total of nine countries and 22 different cities. Sometimes, I was forced out of my comfort zone; other times, I gladly broke out of my bubble. Through all of this, I was reminded that there was a world outside of my own, and it is a great one. Of course, I was always familiar with the concept of the world—that there are other people living their lives, differently but more or less the same as me, and that there are entire countries operating outside my own. I always knew that my life was not the same as others and that my world was not at the center of other people’s, but my study abroad experience made this concept real and concrete. While I would go to a water fountain or buy a bottled water at a store, Romans would be getting their water out of the city’s historic fountains. Small differences like this made the rest of the world real to me. Though I was essentially on an extended vacation, people lived in a world entirely separate from mine, and their experience was not a vacation—it was real. While we all may be familiar with this obvious-but-overwhelming concept, few get to live it.

2. One of the best parts about studying abroad? Getting to travel to other cities and countries! Here are my top travel tips:

Traveling while abroad is no walk in the park. It’s a fast-pace hustle that is very far from lying in a beach chair, enjoying some R & R on an exotic beach somewhere—or maybe it is on Saturday, once you’ve already arrived at your destination. But when you’re trying to stay on a budget and see as much of a new city as you can between end-of-week classes on Thursday and the first day of classes on Monday, you need all the help you can get in making your travels a success. The most important tools you can rely on for smooth sailing? Google Flights, Pinterest, Lonely Planet, Airbnb, a reliable carry-on, and a shuttle system to and from the airport that you make yourself familiar with. Google Flights is the best way to search different combinations of round trip flights for the best price, allowing you to mess around with times and airport combinations. Pinterest and Lonely Planet are perfect tools to find unique ways to experience the culture of your travel destination, and Airbnb is often a better place for the same or cheaper prices than many hostels, especially if you’re traveling in groups. The Airbnb hosts are often the best resources for travel tips. I can tell an abroad student now, and they won’t listen (because I know I didn’t): Pack light. You have three days to travel, and you don’t want to be lugging a huge heavy bag around a new city. Checked bag fees are never worth it and are in place for a reason. Finally, assuming that most abroad students rely on public transportation, almost every airport offers a sort of shuttle service from a set destination to and from the airport. Get to know that service ASAP—our go-to was the Sit Bus Shuttle in Rome. Keep tabs on the schedule to ensure that you make your flights, and you’ll always have a reliable way to save money on your trips and make sure you get home.

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