By Morgan Pimentel
I never truly knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I spent my high school years troubleshooting my future, trying to figure out what I could possibly be happy doing for the rest of my life. I had no clear answers of what degree to pursue but was too stubborn to go into college undecided. While the path ahead of me was daunting, there was one thing I was certain of, by the time I graduated college, I would spend at least one semester living abroad.
With that goal on the horizon, I shuffled through the first years of my undergraduate career as uncertain as ever. In two years, I changed my major three times, transferred schools, and took a semester off to work in Walt Disney World. Despite the fact that I still felt confused about my future, I decided to take the first steps to fulfilling my dream of studying abroad.
I found API in the beginning of my junior year and was immediately drawn to their programs in Florence, Italy. At the time, I was a Digital Media and Film Communications major, yet was interested in how this programming offered a glimpse into the worlds of art history, linguistics, and food culture. Before I knew it, my bags were packed and I was off to experience four months outside of my comfort zones.
Living in Florence taught me a lot about myself. I was slowly learning to leave behind fears that were holding me from my full potential. Spending each day with roommates and friends that had different career paths, dreams, and experiences made me look at this time as an opportunity. An opportunity to understand the complex beauty of Europe while soul searching about what career could keep me this curious and passionate for my entire life.
While the months spent surrounded by history, art, and culture were shifting my perspectives of the world each day, I still worried that I would return home with no clarity on what my future held. It was on a bus ride home from an API excursion to Venice that a Resident Director gave me advice that would change how I felt about graduating college and entering the workforce.
“You don’t have to do one thing for your whole life if you don’t like it. Whatever you like, do that.”
In this short thought, I began to let go of the fears surrounding my academic decisions. I started to think about the things that I DID like, and realized how my passions for making connections and experiencing new cultures could be integrated into a career and life. When my time in Italy concluded, my curiosity was not yet satisfied, and I connected with my home institution’s Global Education Center to unpack the lessons I had learned.
I had the opportunity to become a Study Abroad Ambassador, which allowed me to share the impacts that API and study abroad had on my life. In no time, I was making connections with previous and future study abroad participants and fell in love with seeing how the world can shape someone. The education abroad community was one that I wanted to deepen my connections with, and was led to a Master of Arts program in International Higher Education. Now, I find myself more certain than ever, continuing my education to pursue a career in international education.
While I am now confident of my future plans, it is important to acknowledge that these transitions did not come without great challenges. It is not always the easiest thing to move your life to a foreign country, and it can be even more difficult to leave that country behind. While time and distance might fall between me and Italy, the lessons I learned and the people I met will follow me through my career and beyond.