NJameh“Some Sugar for Your Tea,” N’Jameh CamaraI’ve wanted to study abroad – though I didn’t know where – since 2009 when I was a freshman in college. It’s been on my mind, and I’d like to think there’s a reason it hasn’t left. In high school, I never thought seriously about studying abroad in college because back then I thought 1.) It’s too far into the future to think about 2.) What will my major be, first? 3.) What is the date for the ACT again?

Fast forward to freshman year at Loyola University-Chicago, when I realized that the amount of research and paperwork I had to do to begin was overwhelming, but I didn’t go from crawling to running in a day. I realized that by taking baby steps, I could overcome those mountains in front of my goal.

Starting sophomore year, I researched London, Rome, Beijing and Hamburg, Germany, as options to study abroad. Rome won. Why? To narrow my options, it helped to know that Loyola had campuses in Rome and Beijing. I knew that all of my credits and financial aid were guaranteed to transfer.

I want to travel everywhere, but already having been to Germany, I thought being in Italy would give me more of an opportunity to explore the Mediterranean and many small villages along the coast that may be hard for me to go back to in the future.

Going to London may be more probable, especially as I want to pursue work in the theater. And really, I can see more countries and for cheap and in a shorter amount of time by taking a train, ferry or plane that I don’t feel I would have done as much of by being at the Beijing campus.

I finally submitted all of the paperwork necessary to study in Rome this spring – a letter of recommendation, application, transcripts; my acceptance letter arrived this past November.

More baby steps followed as I filled out the visa application, paperwork, needed to search for a roommate, sign up for classes. My head was spinning with deadlines. Hello, “crazy N’Jameh schedule!” which, by the way, was already filled with work study, a volunteer job, auditioning in the city, my a cappella group and, of course, learning Italian 101!

Thanks to baby steps, I’m getting ready to leave soon. Where is my “Merchant of Venice” play?

With my “Harper Collins Language Survival Guide: Italy” and the DVD, “Under the Tuscan Sun,” I’m ready to rock ‘n’ roll out of the states for a semester.

Now that I’m crossing studying abroad off my list of goals, what do I want to pursue next? Take a road trip to Toronto, join a meditation group and make a pilgrimage to Southeast Asia, or get cast in another professional theater production! Well, I’ll wait until I return from this adventure before I start my next one.

And so, going to Italy is a new chapter in my life, or should I say, “Un nuovo capitolo nella mia vita.” Unfortunately, a “Harper Collins Survival Guide: Life” does not exist; at least I don’t think so.

If there were one, I’d be taking it to Italy.

(Camara is majoring in theater performance, and working toward minors in women/gender studies and communications at Loyola University in Chicago. Her home parish is Our Lady of Good Hope, Milwaukee. Follow her blog as she studies abroad at tinyurl.com/7z8jnoy. Email her at ncamara@luc.edu.)