#StudyAbroadBecause it challenges you in the best possible way

Stasia Lopez's picture

Raised on the east coast, Julia Gagosian grew up 15 minutes outside of Boston in the small suburban town of Wellesley, Massachusetts. Growing up, she harbored a deep love for the Red Sox, lobster rolls, and hiking the trails of Henry David Thoreau’s, Walden Pond. Much time has passed since those days, as Julia is currently in her final year as an undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, majoring in political science, with a concentration in comparative politics. However, it wasn’t an innate love for politics that drew her to this field of study, it was her love for words. Julia’s love for writing, reading, speaking, and even listening, has allowed her to dip her toes in drastically different sectors. On the political side, she had the chance to be a legislative intern with the Massachusetts State House, as well as a student of international relations in Dubrovnik, Croatia. On the other hand, the majority of Julia’s course load today registers as poetry classes, meshed with an internship for a publishing agency that is based out of New York City. When not writing, reading, or speaking, Julia enjoys listening to music on Spotify, and has a somewhat unhealthy obsession with creating playlists for every second of the day. 

Julia Gagosian in Croatia: #StudyAbroadBecause it challenges you in the best possible way

What motivated your decision to go abroad? How/why did you choose where to go?
What motivated me to go abroad was the urge I had to put theory to practice. I figured I had spent the last three years studying other countries and comparative politics, and the only way to truly test my knowledge was to get out there. In all honesty, I was initially interested in Croatia because of a simple Google search. After seeing images of the Dalmatian coasts turquoise waters and dramatic cliffs, and I was hooked. With that in mind, it just so happened that the program in Dubrovnik was built on coursework in international relations and diplomacy, fitting perfectly with my major. 

Julia Gagosian in Croatia: #StudyAbroadBecause it challenges you in the best possible way

What was your experience like? What is your favorite memory? What were some challenges you observed?
After discussing with other classmates and friends that studied abroad, I have come to realize the authenticity of my experience in Croatia. All of my classes were taken with local students, as well as students from Germany, Israel, and surrounding Balkan countries. I think my favorite memory was probably a series of memories. After the first month or so, when the locals begin to recognize you, have your coffee order ready, or invite you to grab food, that is the most gratifying feeling in the world. Along those lines, what challenged me the most was coming to the realization of just how American and westernized I truly am. This isn’t necessarily a negative thing, but it just made me realize how much I had, and still have, to learn about the world. 

Julia Gagosian in Croatia: #StudyAbroadBecause it challenges you in the best possible way

What skills did you develop from your experience? Do you feel changed from your experience abroad? 
I can say without a doubt, that my listening skills have been developed through my experience. I think as Americans, and especially college students, we feel the pressure to have answers and opinions prepared. After discussing and debating with people that have such different worldviews, you learn to let go of your pride a little, and just absorb the conversation. I feel changed in an infinite number of ways, but probably the thing that has stuck with me the most is my ability to be patient. The pace of life in Croatia was very different from what I was used to. I learned to adapt to their lifestyle, and carry that relaxed, patient way of life into high-stress situations back in the States. 

Has your experience helped you get to where you are today? 
This is a difficult question to answer. On the surface, I’m still a student at the University of Pittsburgh, preparing to graduate this spring. I can’t say that I’ve had some grand epiphany about my career, or my life’s purpose. I have however, developed skills and a passion for understanding different cultures that will help me in whichever field I do choose to work in. 

What advice would you share with other students who are thinking of going abroad?
My largest piece of advice would be to resist the urge to compare. If you consume yourself with comparing everything abroad to your home, or what you’re comfortable, you will miss out on what that culture has to offer. When I went abroad, I expected everything to be overwhelmingly different, and I accepted it with open arms. This open-minded attitude is not only what allowed me to enjoy the experience to its fullest, but also allowed me to develop life-long friendships with people from different parts of the world.

Julia Gagosian in Croatia: #StudyAbroadBecause it challenges you in the best possible way

How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?
I feel that international education has made me more interested in others cultural identities, and question my own. Now whenever I meet someone from a different part of the globe, rather than shying away, I dive into conversations with the hopes of gaining perspective to add to my own worldview.

Julia Gagosian in Croatia: #StudyAbroadBecause it challenges you in the best possible way

#StudyAbroadBecause...it challenges you in the best possible way

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Julia Gagosian: #StudyAbroadBecause it challenges you in the best possible way


Stasia Lopez is the Global Education Editor for Wandering Educators and is also a Career Consultant at the University of Pittsburgh. She graduated with her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Western Michigan University and earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Robert Morris University. Stasia is passionate about international education, travel,  and loves working on a college campus. She’s lived in four different U.S. states (Florida, Michigan, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania) and also studied and lived abroad in Rome, Italy. Stasia lives in the Pittsburgh area with her husband, Fernando, precious daughter, Maya, and playful kitty-cat Zorro.

You can read more of her #studyabroadbecause interviews, as well as articles on various forms of international education at home and abroad, here.


All photos courtesy and copyright Julia Gagosian