Networking across 13 countries: A study abroad success story
Orians, a fashion merchandising major with a minor in photo illustration, studied abroad with the Kent State program in Florence, Italy during the fall of 2009. In addition to her studies, it was important to Orians that she explore different countries. She made it to 13 countries and at least 22 cities and towns in Italy.
When asked to share memorable experiences from her study abroad, Kent State University senior Emily Orians has plenty to choose from. She went cliff diving in Cinque Terre and ate haggis in Scotland. She took a hike near Lugano, Switzerland and ended up meeting a mountain goat on Mount Bre. She took a walk behind King Ludwig’s Castle and found a trail alongside a waterfall gorge.
“My best stories always come from when I left my fear behind and took a chance,” Orians says. “These aren’t things I found in a museum or on a tour, as much as I loved those things as well. It certainly wasn’t something I experienced by exploring the nightclubs and bars of a city. During my time abroad, I came to realize that experiencing a city at dawn is much more valuable than experiencing it at 2 a.m.”
Orians, a fashion merchandising major with a minor in photo illustration, studied abroad with the Kent State program in Florence, Italy during the fall of 2009. While in Florence, she was enrolled in Elementary Italian II, Product Development, Italian Fashion and Culture and European Study Tour, while also beginning work on her senior honors thesis.
In addition to her studies, it was important to Orians that she explore different countries. She made it to 13 countries and at least 22 cities and towns in Italy.
She was able to travel so much because of an emphasis on budgeting and time management while abroad. Holiday breaks resulted in two 10-day trips, and her travel homework helped her learn the most affordable ways to get around Europe. She took advantage of inexpensive airlines, overnight train tickets and museums’ free days.
“Put simply, I was sure to look for discounts whenever possible, and only spent money on things that I viewed as a true cultural experience,” Orians says.
She also used her time abroad to network. Traveling alone gave her the extra push to talk to people she met during her travels.
“When I stayed in a hostel in Nice, one of the girls in my room worked for a small fashion magazine in London, and she talked to me about the industry,” Orians says.
On a hike near Geneva, Orians’ guide spoke with her about his job with the United Nations and offered her access to historic landmarks. In Amsterdam, she learned about the European music industry from a group of Finnish musicians.
To keep in touch, she made sure to bring business cards whenever possible, and she followed up with a note when appropriate.
“I try to stay in touch as much as possible with the people I met, if for no other reason than because they were so very interesting,” Orians says.
After graduation, Orians plans to move to London and get started with a fashion magazine. Eventually, she hopes to work as a fashion editor or creative director for Vogue UK.
“I knew after my time abroad that I was happiest in Europe, and that I would be completely content with that being my daily environment,” Orians says.
With a semester of experience abroad, Orians feels she knows more about her own abilities and resourcefulness.
“I remember being stranded in a train station in Brussels when it seemed likely I wouldn’t have a place to stay for the night, and I found a solution in spite of my panic,” Orians says. “There’s something truly empowering about being able to solve your own problems because you must.”
She made it a point to talk with locals everywhere she went, instead of just spending time with other students studying abroad. She remembers a conversation with a booth owner at a Christmas market in Vienna.
“He sold handmade Christmas ornaments, and he told me about the process from start to finish, as well as about his home out in the countryside,” Orians says. I learned so much more from saying, ‘Hello,’ and asking a question than from spending an hour on a tour of the city.”
Orians hopes that other students who study abroad take advantage of the experience.
“Take the time to meet the people, visit the sites that they view as defining of their culture, and even sample the local cuisine,” Orians says. “You’ll have a much more rewarding experience than if you went on a guided tour that ended with a gathering of other American students.”