Three Things About Preparing for Your First Week Abroad

Headshot of Marina Schinker. She is standing outdoors and smiling at the camera.
Marina Schinker
May 27, 2023
A ground level view of the orange buildings and criss crossing roads framing clear blue sky

1) Making the final decision:

Studying abroad provides opportunities to learn about other cultures, travel, meet new people, and try new experiences. Most likely, any student familiarized with study abroad resources has heard similar advice. Instead, I’ll share my first and most important piece of advice, something I was told in an interview with the President of the Madison Chamber of Commerce. He mentioned how a struggle between recent graduates and businesses has developed because many students want to jump straight into the workforce without any relevant experience. He encouraged me to pursue a study abroad internship because it would help me gain experience and set me apart from others after graduation. It made a monumental impact on my decision, and others in my program have resonated with similar reasons for deciding to study abroad.

2) Not all experience is equal:

My study abroad program in Rome works to set students up with summer internships abroad. As a neurobiology major, the advisors in IES Abroad Rome worked hard to get me a spot in a molecular biology research lab at the University of Roma Tor Vergata. Like many other students graduating right now, I have struggled to get in-person lab experiences in my major due to COVID restrictions, so this alone was a dream come true. However, this program takes a typical lab research experience and elevates it beyond that. Primarily, it’s an incredible comparison to see how businesses, labs, and other working environments differ between countries. Every company has a specific culture in how it is run which gives every company different strengths and weaknesses. By changing to a whole new country’s laws, histories, manners, meanings, and values, you can observe large-scale changes in company culture and hence see vastly different ways a company can create strengths or avoid weaknesses. With increasing competition in the job market, it is important to know how to adapt to many different company cultures and to provide strengths to employers. Additionally, my lab experience in Rome goes beyond a typical research experience for a more personal reason. This is the first time (and unfortunately probably the only) that I will be working in STEM with a group that is entirely of women. While it may seem like a small thing, I'm working in a typically heavily male-dominated field and I have to take advantage of the opportunity to brag a little bit. Working alongside numerous women who have achieved incredible things in the field of molecular neurobiology is inspiring and unforgettable.

3) Setting you up for success:

IES Abroad has an incredible group of people behind every program that works tirelessly to provide you with the best possible experience. I know this statement sounds exactly like a tagline in an advertisement but I can assure you I say this purely because I think these advisors deserve recognition for the incredible program they've set up and the tireless work they've put into making my first week a smooth and anxiety-free transition. Rome has always been on my list of places I planned on traveling to; after reading further into the program, I realized that IES Abroad would handle a lot of the concerns I had about traveling alone and provide further opportunities through student resources, classes, connections to businesses, and optional field trips. So far these resources have far exceeded my exceptions of simply making traveling to a new country a bit smoother. I was fully prepared to arrive and terrifyingly attempt to navigate the metro, trains, buses, and other public transportation on my own but instead, students that live in the city are guiding us through our routes to work, and helping us to plan weekend trips beyond Rome. They even have multiple optional weekend trips, tours, and extracurriculars planned. Even the cultural language barriers seem much smaller after an extensive orientation that highlighted body language, Italian hand gestures, stereotyping, manners and so much more.

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Headshot of Marina Schinker. She is standing outdoors and smiling at the camera.

Marina Schinker

I am a recent University of Wisconsin: Madison graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Neurobiology and certificates in Art and Business. I enjoy painting, food, and swimming, so I'm immensely excited to be in Rome this summer!

2023 Summer 1
Home University:
University of Wisconsin - Madison
Wausau, WI
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