Lorena Di Stefano
From: Richmond Hill, Ontario
Travelled abroad to: Greece
Lorena Di Stefano knew she wanted to travel during her university experience from a young age. She completed two years at a local college following high school but ultimately found that a local experience didn’t suit her lifestyle. Lorena wanted to experience different ways of living and meet people from other cultures. Following her high school graduation, she had the opportunity to travel to Greece. This trip was her first solo travelling experience, and Lorena fell in love with the country. On the trip, she met someone doing their masters at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA), who helped her realize that she could also attend university in Greece. The next thing she knew, she was beginning a four-year Bachelor of Arts in Archaeology, History, and Literature of Ancient Greece in September 2020.
While Lorena says she didn’t experience any significant ‘culture shock,’ she was aware that the pandemic affected much of modern Greek life. Luckily, she has three more years in Greece to complete her undergrad, so she will have plenty of time to experience a more normal Greek life. While it was certainly an unusual year, Lorena does not regret it for a second, saying, “While I still have a lot of time left studying in Athens; I’ll never forget the interesting and unique first year that I had there.”
Lorena lived alone when she was in college, but this was her first experience living completely alone without friends or family nearby. Moreover, she was living in an unfamiliar country and culture. However, she didn’t have much trouble making connections with those around her. As her first year was virtual, Lorena was placed in smaller groups for her classes. She prefers this as it allows classmates to get to know one another. Through these classroom video calls, Lorena made plenty of friends, including some European exchange students. She had the opportunity to study with them and even got in a few beach days, and went on a few trips within the country before the tourist season began.
One of the things she enjoyed about connecting with others worldwide is that she now has people to travel with and visit across the globe. Lorena also appreciates the new perspective she has gotten from making these friends. Despite growing up in entirely different environments and living situations thousands of kilometres apart, she and her friends still have plenty in common and a lot they can relate to.
Advice for Others
One of her most significant recommendations to anyone in a similar situation is to take responsibility for yourself. Staying on top of personal organization, self-care and adhering to new regulations has helped her succeed.
“Especially with a language barrier and other small obstacles, you really have to learn how to advocate for yourself and push yourself to get the important stuff done, even if it seems intimidating or daunting at first.”
– Lorena Di Stefano
Lorena is glad she took the chance and pushed herself to go away alone because it showed her that she was much more capable than she thought, improving her self-confidence. She says travelling abroad is an incredible learning and growing experience and can allow you to truly step into your independence. It also provides the opportunity to establish friends and networks worldwide, bringing opportunities you would never have imagined.
“If it’s something you’ve really been wanting to do, then just go for it and don’t overthink it too much.”
– Lorena Di Stefano
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