Study abroad program widens horizons for economics student
John Kabrovski ’26 spent first year in Italy, Spain
John Kabrovski ’26 knew he wanted to try something different with his college education.
Applying to Verto Education’s study abroad program – a privately owned company that partners with American institutions like Binghamton University – the economics major from Harpur College was determined to widen his perspective of the world around him by fully immersing himself in a new culture. He traveled to Europe for his first year, living in Florence, Italy, for the 2022 fall semester and Seville, Spain, during the following spring.
After returning to the U.S. in June, Kabrovski has been working to make sure other Binghamton University students are exposed to the possibilities Verto has to offer.
Q. What was your experience like in Florence? In Seville?
A. Florence and Seville were totally different experiences and I loved every day. In Florence, all the students lived in our own apartments. I got to live with six of my friends and it was the best thing ever. I got to wake up in a beautiful apartment in the center of the city, walk down to a café and enjoy some coffee or take a stroll down the riverside.
During my spring semester in Spain, my experience was a little different because I stayed with a host family. It was definitely something I had never done before, but that made it invaluable. I had dinner every night with my host family and it helped me get better at speaking Spanish. I learned a lot of the language just by living with them.
Both countries were so great, and immersing myself in the culture was wonderful. People are so friendly, and the campuses were beautiful. Most of my teachers in both countries were locals that spoke English, which was super-cool because you were learning about a completely new place but there wasn’t a huge language barrier.
Q. What were some of your favorite things to do while abroad?
A. My favorite part of it was traveling the whole time. On the weekends, it’s so easy to hop on a train and go to a different part of Europe, which was fantastic. I got to see so many different countries. One weekend, we all bought tickets to Croatia and rented an Airbnb for a few days. Sometimes, you’d just wake up on a Friday and decide to take a train to Pisa or Paris. It’s so easy to explore Europe and our program made sure we got to travel as much as possible while still being safe.
Verto also includes trips in your tuition as part of your curriculum, which I think is super-special. They took us to places like Venice, Tuscany, Lagos and Morocco, and I never thought I’d get to see so many beautiful cities as part of my college experience.
Q. What was a highlight of your time abroad?
A. My friends and I went to Iceland for a weekend when we had Thanksgiving break. It was $120 for a round-trip flight and we rented a van to drive around the southern portion of Iceland. Seeing the black sand beaches and the mossy landscapes was breathtaking. At one point, we got to see the Northern Lights right above us. That trip was easily the most unforgettable thing I’ve ever done.
Q. Did you work in the community?
A. Yes, I did! During my spring semester in Spain, I took a class called Diversity and Social Justice with Professor Ruben Diaz. One of his friends ran a local nonprofit for an ecological plant and we were given the chance to volunteer. If you became a full-time member, you’d start to provide jobs and income to people who couldn’t find employment in Spain, but since we were just there for the semester, we went out there a couple of times to help them cut material and lay out soil. Their goal is ultimately to build a bunch of ecological farms for sustainable food and it was nice to help them out. The unemployment problem in Spain is pretty bad, and so it’s always good to lend a helping hand when you can.
Q. What made your time with Verto Education so great? Why do you feel it’s an important program?
A. It’s such an amazing opportunity, and you can learn so much. Most of it is experimental learning, and since you’re fully immersing yourself in a different culture, you’re getting more of a global education. Classes you learn in a traditional university setting are super-interesting, but students are most likely attending schools in the same country where they grew up. I think it was really eye-opening for me to live in places so different from where I grew up, and I think that for all young college students, it’s important to expand your horizons.
I really wanted to share my experience because there’s not a lot of information immediately available about programs like Verto Education. When I found the program, it almost seemed too good to be true. I’m hoping that other students from Binghamton hear my story and know that it’s something available to them as well. Verto partners with universities all over the country so that students can still earn college credit and you can choose from so many different study-abroad locations. It’s just an amazing opportunity and more people should know about it.
Q. Do you feel as if programs like Verto are changing conventional four-year undergraduate programs?
A. I hope so. The program emphasizes the importance of becoming a global citizen, and I think studying abroad made me aware of a lot of different social issues people face globally. I’m hopeful that more students will sign up for programs like Verto to understand how good we have it in the U.S. and how we can better help people internationally.
In Italy, they’re experiencing a huge climate crisis. In Spain, there’s a huge immigration crisis with people trying to leave Morocco and crossing the Straights of Gibraltar, as it’s some of the most treacherous water in the world and thousands of people lose their lives trying to cross each year. I would have never known about either of these issues if not for my study-abroad program. There are problems everywhere, and it’s important that we don’t exclusively consider issues happening in our own country. I think that incorporating study abroad into conventional four-year programs is a great way to provide students with a more global education.
Q. If you were speaking to prospective students considering this program, what piece of advice would you give?
A. I would say that being scared is OK. I was terrified at first. It’s something entirely brand new and it’s easy to be unsure of yourself. Still, I’d tell anyone else to just do it. You will learn so much and see so much and you’ll never forget it. I think it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.