Santa Clara University

Jeri Vizza '12

International Ambassador

Why do you want to serve as an International Ambassador at Santa Clara University?

The answer to this question is simple. I want to share my experience abroad with as many people as will listen! Studying abroad in Italy has changed my life, and if i can influence even one student who is wavering on their decision to study abroad, then I couldn't be happier. To live in another culture, to become fully enveloped in another culture, to experience another way of life&there s nothing more rewarding one can do in life in my opinion. If I can help ease the worries of an overwhelmed student, or answer questions, or simply brag a little about my experiences in Florence and with my incredible host family, then that is precisely what I want to do.
What were the deciding factors in choosing your study abroad program-location?
I wanted to be challenged in my studies abroad. This was the primary factor in my decision to study in Florence, Italy. I know that even in a developed city such as Florence, that the language barriers and rich culture would be a little shocking at first, but I was determined to immerse myself in everything Florentine. I wanted to live with an Italian host family and experience real life as an Italian, I wanted to perfect my accent and pick up the intricacies of the Florentine dialect, and I wanted to shop for beautiful Italian leather, sip wine in the Tuscan countryside, and witness the harvesting of the new olives during olive oil season. Looking back on my experiences now, I actually did all of those things, and then some. I left my heart in Florence. I left my heart with my Italian host family. It is only a matter of time until I return to the culture and people I came to love.
Describe a defining moment in your abroad experiences and how that experience(s) has affected you personally, intellectually, vocational, spiritually, or academically.
I had just finished teaching a class of Italian high school students at a local school in Florence as an assignment for my Italian class at Syracuse University in Florence. All of the students came up to me wanting to know everything about American culture and life in California at Santa Clara. I was able to tell them everything that I could about life in America, when in actuality, it was their lives that interested me. I learned so much from these amazing students, and this was the first time during my abroad experience that I d really seized an opportunity to make some local friends, and I still talk to them to this day. After I finished talking with these curious students, I walked over the Ponte Santa Trinita, a very famous bridge next to the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, on the clearest morning Florence had seen the entire semester, and I stood there, for an hour, taking pictures, taking in the sights and sounds of the beautiful Italian being spoken around me, never wanting this moment to end.   I was part of this amazing Italian culture that I d wanted to be a part of for so long, without even realizing it. Every person that passed me speaking Italian I could understand, ever persona that passed me thought that I, myself, was Italian. I only wish for other students that they may have an experience like this, to feel the way that I felt at the point a realized complete happiness and contentment in this new environment. I am one of the lucky ones.
What advises, recommendations would you give to prospective study abroad students? In retrospect, how would you prepare differently to maximize the study abroad experience?

Just go. That s the only advice that I can give a prospective study abroad student. You just have to take the leap of faith and go. Also, take advantage of the resources available, the people at the study abroad office want to make your decision and transition to and from abroad as easy and seamless as possible, so use them as your mentors and they can help guide you in your decision making and processes. Do your research! Don t just pick a place because it sounds nice! You will be living there for four months, so research it and acquaint yourself with the culture, however a little mystery is also part of the fun, but find a balance!! In retrospect, I would research closer how getting an international telephone and internet key was going to work. My homestay did not have internet, therefore I had to buy a 70 euro internet key for 3 months in addition to my Italian phone which ended up being a bigger expense than I d ever anticipated. I would definitely advise to go over a budget with your parents, and definitely accept the fact that you will go over your budget, so plan accordingly, because there are definitely going to be some unexpected expenses along the way.