December 17, 2014

Alabama Engineering Student Shares Semester Abroad Experience in Italy

SEC students travel throughout Europe during their semester abroad
SEC students travel throughout Europe during their semester abroad

By: Bryant Welbourne
SECU (Twitter: @TheSECU)

As part of a partnership between Southeastern Conference universities and the Politecnico di Torino in Italy, SEC engineering students studied in Italy during the 2014 spring semester. The exchange program, in its fifth year, allows Italian students to study at conference universities in the fall and SEC students to study in Italy the following spring.

One student who took part in the program was Connor Ciment, a senior from Simsbury, Conn., who studies mechanical engineering at the University of Alabama. Ciment shared his experience with SECU, the conference’s academic initiative, following his semester in Italy.

SECU: What sparked your interest in taking part in this program to study in Italy?

Connor Ciment: “I have always wanted to study abroad. Coming to Alabama from Connecticut was an eye-opening experience. I have enjoyed immersing myself in a culture that is different from the one I grew up in and the chance to go to Italy was an opportunity to do that all over again on a larger scale.”

SECU: What were your expectations going into this experience?

Connor Ciment: “I expected the experience to be a challenge because the Politecnico di Torino offers highly competitive courses. I also didn’t know much Italian and heard that Americans carried a stigma abroad. But I was prepared to leave my comfort zone and to work hard to support myself far from my family and friends.”

SECU: How were you received by students and faculty once you arrived in Italy?

Connor Ciment: “The reception was amazing. I was fortunate enough to have known a Politecnico student who studied at Alabama the previous semester. He picked me up and showed me to my apartment. He was very helpful in getting everything set up for me.”

SECU: What was your experience in the classroom working with students and faculty?

Connor Ciment: “As far as my in class experience, it was as smooth as it could have been. I enjoyed meeting friends from all around the world and the atmosphere in class was very communal since the other students are also away from home and excited to meet new people. We all formed a good support group once exam time rolled around.”

SECU: What was your favorite part of university life in Italy?

Connor Ciment: “My favorite part of life was the endless supply of new. Every day was a chance to learn new bits of foreign culture, whether it was Italian or supplied from other students from various countries. I also enjoyed the chance to speak proudly of my own culture, both its pros and cons. The most poignant memories I have are of the times when cultural barriers fell and I was able to connect with people from different backgrounds.”

SECU: Did you get to experience any sporting events in Italy?

Connor Ciment: “I did not attend any sporting events, but I played a ton of soccer and went to an orange throwing festival that bordered on sport.”

SECU: What will be the most memorable experience you will take with you?

Connor Ciment: “I had numerous amazing experiences and there are many which I will carry close to me for a very long time. The greatest thing I bring back is the strength and confidence to go out and do anything. There were thousands of chances to not do something and to stay comfortable, but I extended myself and began to reap the rewards of allowing myself to be vulnerable to other people. It was scary and not easy, but it felt good to live large and unafraid.”

SECU: What advice would you give to the American students who will study in Italy next semester?

Connor Ciment: “Studying abroad is a whirlwind of new places and people. Be prepared for living away from your home, not just physically but emotionally. It is up to you to reach out and pursue the fulfillment you need. Other than that, go out and grab all the life experiences you can.”