Study Abroad Advice from IES Abroad Ambassador of the Month Joshua Hays: How Learning Abroad Helped Him Break Out of His Shell

We’re happy to share that Joshua Hays is our January 2017 IES Abroad Ambassador of the Month. Joshua is a senior at Indiana University - Bloomington, majoring in Apparel Merchandising. He spent Spring 2016 on the IES Abroad Milan – Italy Today Program, where he also worked on his Fashion Design and Italian minors. Not only does he keep busy academically, but he also plays five different musical instruments: cello, string bass, piano, violin, and the harp! Joshua shares his tips for meeting local students, how he overcame his nerves, and how study abroad helped him discover the self-confidence he already had all along!

IES Abroad: How did you meet local students abroad?

Joshua Hays: I met local students by becoming involved in the language exchange program offered by IES Abroad. I was able to make Italian friends who showed me around and invited me to events, such as a rugby team cook out and the hot air balloon festival in Monza! I constantly met with the front desk at the IES Abroad Center and was adamant about expanding my Italian vocabulary and making close Italian friends.

IES Abroad: What questions are commonly asked about your time abroad? What is your response?

JH: The most common question I am asked about my time abroad in Italy is, "Do you miss the food?" My response is always, “Of course!!” The food and culture of food in Italy was a new experience for me. Because this was my first experience abroad, the fact that I am a vegetarian made me nervous about how I could eat. But there were always options and helpful people!

IES Abroad: What would you tell someone who’s on the fence about studying abroad?

JH: For those who are on the fence about studying abroad, I want to tell you that your experience will only change your life for the better. I also had doubts before I went abroad, for personal and financial reasons. Before my experience I was fairly quiet and shy, and honestly had little confidence in myself. I was able to overcome all of that during my time abroad. I became more confident in my ability to speak to people in a different language. I was able to break out of my shell and become friends with so many amazing people, Italian and American, and have made everlasting friends. I know it may seem difficult taking that initial step, but trust me, you will thank yourself in the future!

IES Abroad: What tips would you give to students to help them make their host country home?

JH: The biggest thing I did was make a friend. I was persistent about language exchanges with an Italian student and was able to begin making myself at home! I went shopping and tried to speak Italian as much as possible. This not only makes you familiar with the city, but also helps you meet people and go to dinners and other fun activities!

IES Abroad: What does study abroad mean to you?

JH: To me, study abroad means opening my eyes to a culture different from my own. It means a new place, new language, and new people. It means learning that I do have confidence for even thinking about studying abroad in the first place. It means changing my life for the better.

IES Abroad: What one piece of advice would you share to those who are returning home from study abroad?

JH: Get involved with your school by helping other students planning on studying abroad! But one real thing is to be prepared to possibly be overwhelmed by the grocery stores again. I was shocked by the amount of food and size of the stores.

Thanks, Joshua!

How will studying abroad in Italy change your life? We can’t wait to find out. Check out our study abroad and internship programs in Milan.

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