By: Sarah Ensley
I never changed my major. In May, I will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in political science major with a minor in history. There was never any doubt whether or not I was in the right school or program. This being said, I had no clue what a political science major was when I decided to check that box during my UGA application process. I had no interest in politics and even now, I am not obsessed with a particular political party and I don’t follow every campaign with a hawk’s eye. My experience as a political science major had less to do with narrowing my political focus and more to do with broadening my perspective.
In the spring of 2019, I got the chance to study abroad in Verona, Italy. This was a SPIA program, but we had students represented from multiple colleges such as Grady and Terry. We were a diversified group made up of all backgrounds, religions and so many opinions. Living and travelling with this group of students was an experience in itself and gave me a new outlook on the variation of UGA’s student body. Beyond just various backgrounds, the mix of majors and professional interests were so evident. It was awesome to see how others planned to use their SPIA degrees and even how students from other schools prepared for future goals. I graduated from a smaller, predominantly white high school in a small town lacking in diversification so being in the midst of these students was, in a way, as much of a cultural experience as visiting different countries.
In my three months in Europe, I got the chance to travel to seven countries. I had always hoped I would get the chance to travel like this one day, but I never imagined it would be so soon or independently. We spent our weekends jumping from one city to another, running through airports and train stations hoping we ended up at the right location (let me tell you, being around every language you can think except English is rough). We spent our weekdays learning about European government and history and Italian culture. The classes were not always a walk in the park, but the information must’ve stuck because I still reference back to the readings and notes from that class even in my current coursework.
I loved all of the classes but as a history minor, my favorite course was Dr. Legge’s Holocaust in Italy course. We read first-hand accounts of holocaust survivors and dug deeper into the time period by studying our own city of Verona. Verona was the sister-city to Munich, Germany. We finished out the program with a week in Munich which was quite a fitting way to end the class as Munich was were the Nazi movement began. While staying in Germany we visited Dachau and also took a tour through the Jewish Ghetto in Austria. This course led to me to continue my studies of the holocaust this past fall, so I would say it had a lasting impact.
Studying abroad was not exactly how I thought it would be. I did not have a clear image of what those 3 months would look like, but I would not change the way things panned out. The professors we had were amazing and the experiences gained were unimaginable. I could not be more thankful to be an ambassador for a school that works towards creating experiences like studying in Verona.