Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Cattolica International

Student life in Lincoln, Nebraska

Since childhood, the Brazilian-born and Italian-raised Isadora Mapelli had a dream of travelling and living abroad. When she started studying Political Sciences and International Relations at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Isadora didn’t lose any time applying for a study abroad programme. Her main goal though was to improve her language skills as she always knew that she would want to work internationally in the future. In January 2022, Isadora finally embarked on her dream trip and crossed the ocean to spend five months at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln (UNL) experiencing some movie-worthy moments and gaining memories that will last a lifetime. 

While typically students tend to opt for more popular destinations in the USA such as New York or California, Isadora settled for Nebraska as the courses there suited her best and she was anything but disappointed. Isadora loved the university, and the new professors and approach helped her gain a broader perspective on alternative study methods. The main difference - it is typical to do projects or homework every week which then contribute to a final mark at the end of the year. This approach helped Isadora to gain confidence and improve her language skills as weekly presentations and projects pushed her out of her comfort zone and helped her to always be more directly involved in complex courses such as Econometrics. “A study abroad experience builds your confidence and independence,” says Isadora. 

Another difference Isadora noticed was the University campus itself. While Università Cattolica’s campus, like many other campuses across Europe, is historically engulfed by the city with workers and students mingling together in the city rush, the UNL campus resembles a miniature town of its own with gyms, pharmacies, cafés and supermarkets readily available and often specifically catering for students. Moreover, the University of Nebraska has a “buddy” programme. “They are people that communicate with you before you arrive and help you every step of the way - accommodation, studies, campus, they even took us to the supermarket. It was very useful, and it was more than work for them, we became friends,” remembers Isadora. 

The main challenges for her were to overcome shyness and gain the courage to speak English with full confidence. Sometimes she felt people couldn’t understand her or that her ideas didn’t always translate into English. However, with time she got used to speaking in English daily at university and with her new friends both from the international and local community that she now describes as her family away from home. 

And it’s the memories Isadora made with her newfound family that will remain with her for a lifetime. Together with other international students, Isadora got to experience what typical American student life looks like, not short of sororities, spring break trips and Formals that European students typically only see in movies.  

Formals, a fun part of the American college experience, are usually held by fraternities or sororities and involve dressing up for a specific theme. “For example, the first formal theme was “Wedding” and the second was “Country” so you can imagine the costumes were very funny,” recalls Isadora. 

As the spring rolled around, Isadora got a chance to travel to Florida, a typical destination for students to go on spring break to reprieve from responsibilities before finals and the last half of the semester. Then, as the semester came to an end, Isadora together with the entire international community at the UNL decided to celebrate as bona fide American students. “We asked the President of the university to do a graduation ceremony for the international students. It was something they had never done before. We organised our graduation with gowns, caps, and even mock-up diplomas. Everyone was there, it was a very big event with all the international flags flying high. We even threw our caps as proper graduates!” 

Isadora returned to Milan in May 2022 and her English is better than ever. There is quite literally a spark in her eyes. She is happy, full of energy and new ideas. Right now, Isadora is integrating back into life at Università Cattolica and catching up with her friends and family in Italy, but she cannot wait for her next adventure and is already thinking about options for doing a full master’s degree abroad. Her semester abroad was just the first step in a dream she has been chasing since childhood. In the future, Isadora would like to work in a field that involves a lot of communication and meeting new people, “I am not the type to stay in one place, I love to always be on the move.” Ideally, she would love to interconnect her Italian and international sides and be a brand ambassador for a famous Italian brand.