Name: Dan Gonzales
Hometown: South Beloit, IL
Study abroad semester and location: Fall 2012/ Rome, Italy
What was the best meal you had abroad?
For Thanksgiving, my roommate’s parents came to visit him and took the two of us out to dinner. We went to this out of the way but really nice restaurant that had pictures of famous American actors and actresses. There, I had the best Italian carbonara I have ever eaten. It is a dish made with pasta, egg yolk, pecorino romano cheese, and a type of Italian meat (similar to bacon) called prociutto. It was an incredible meal and a wonderful memory of mine; we all talked and drank wine.
What was your proudest/most exciting moment abroad?
My proudest moment was on a trip 3 friends and I took to the Amalfi Coast. We passed through Naples and stayed the night in a bed and breakfast. However, the owners of the B&B didn’t speak any English, between myself and another student who had never studied Italian before that semester we were able to negotiate our stay there.
Did having a background as a minority student provide you with any advantages while you were abroad? If yes, what were they?
I felt as a minority of dark hair and dark skin I didn’t stand out. Because of that I felt more like I was able to try and immerse myself in the culture of the city. It seemed that many people didn’t really know that I wasn’t Italian until I spoke.
Why was it important to you, as a minority student, to study abroad?
As a low-income minority student I never thought that I would get the opportunity to travel overseas and have an adventure such as a semester abroad in a country that spoke primarily a different language. When I discovered how possible it would be for me to spend a semester abroad I immediately began the process that would help me travel to where I had always wanted to go.
Some words of advice for other minorities who want to study abroad:
Don’t think that it isn’t possible. If you want it bad enough you can find away and there are a lot of people willing to help. All you have to do is ask.
What was the biggest challenge you faced with the study abroad experience and how were you able to overcome it?
My biggest hurdle in my study abroad experience was a financial one. Though the school helped by providing me with funds to cover food and expenses, I quickly discovered that I was not able to afford the things the other students could afford, nor did I have the capability of calling home to ask my parents for more money which so many students did. While I might not have been able to spend a carefree semester jet setting around Europe I got to really know and appreciate the city I was living in. Furthermore, I still had enough money so that I could prioritize my spending and still do the things that were most important to me.