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Florence: International Studies Institute (ISI) at Palazzo Rucellai (Summer)
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Jordan Lawson

Major: Sociology, Political Science
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I traveled various paths to finally come across the study abroad program I ended up participating in. Generally, however, I have the College of the Liberal Arts, Career Enrichment Network, and Penn State Education Abroad Office to thank for my opportunity to travel abroad. I spoke with numerous advisers across all three of those departments and my own academic and honors advisers, referred to emails, attended information sessions and abroad fairs, and spoke to student mentors who had previously studied abroad and other friends of mine who had study abroad experiences themselves.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

My experience abroad was absolutely incredible in more ways than I can really even comprehend. From an educational standpoint, it was amazing to be able to learn about the history, culture, social, economic, and political happenings of another country directly from individuals who call that place their home. Being able to hear about and sympathize with their lived experiences and relate that to important real-world events helped me to understand a foreign culture in a way I never knew possible. Socially, being able to meet other Penn State students who I never knew I shared classes, a campus, and experiences with was incredibly enriching, and this was only compounded by the rare ability to network with students from across the country who I never would have otherwise had the opportunity to meet in my life.

Being able to hear about and sympathize with their lived experiences and relate that to important real-world events helped me to understand a foreign culture in a way I never knew possible.

How did this experience impact you academically?

I think that from an academic standpoint, studying abroad gave me an experience that is unmatched by almost anything one can live through while in college. To be able to receive a world class education from instructors who can speak towards their lived experiences and tie that into course material was not only wildly enriching and eye-opening, but it also offered a cultural and humanistic aspect to my learning that I do not think I would have been able to receive anywhere else.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

Even though I am already a senior at Penn State, the next steps for me remain a little bit unclear. I know that I want to attend either graduate or professional school, seeking a master's degree in anything from law, public policy and administration, non-profit management, human resources, labor and employment relations, or something of the sort. While I know these considerations leave my options relatively broad at the moment, I think they will also give me the opportunity to gain a better understanding of who I am as a person and in what facet of society I think I can best serve others. From a career standpoint, I know for a fact that I want to work and interact with people on a regular basis and give back in whatever way that I can. That is why I have a profound interest in community development and social advocacy on a local or regional basis.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would absolutely recommend studying abroad to other Liberal Arts students. As the world shrinks and globalization continues to take root, our cultures and societies are becoming increasingly interconnected and dependent upon each other on a rapid basis. It is vital that we - as thoughtful, critically-thinking, creative, ambitious, and curious students - continue to push the boundaries of our imaginations and the possibilities for those around us; to do that, we have to have a comprehensive understanding of the experiences of cultures and individuals different from what we are familiar with. I personally think there is no better way to do that than by studying abroad and immersing yourself in such a situation.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

Thanks to the Paterno Fellows program, I have been able to develop a deeper understanding of the factors that influence people to make certain decisions - conscious or not. By having been exposed to ethics courses, global awareness, intensive foreign language expectations, and things of the like by the PFP, I was better prepared to handle the transition into another country for an extended period of time. The fact that a study abroad experience is a partial requirement of the program means that I was open to and aware of the opportunity from the day I stepped onto campus as a freshman!

For more information on global opportunities for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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