The Dolphin

All About a Life Abroad

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You may or may not have encountered a student fortunate enough to have experienced the ever “enlightening” opportunity of studying abroad. What do you assume about studying abroad? Do you view your friend as a non-stop encyclopedia whose stories are endless, a recurring “yeah that reminds me of that one time in Europe, when I was visiting [insert a historic or internationally recognized monument, city, building, etc.] and I [insert an elaborate detail of a memory, time, occurrence]?”

Have you seen pictures of the said person posing in front of the Eiffel Tower, Machu Picchu, Buckingham Palace, or the charming architecture of Amsterdam’s canals running throughout the city? Of course, there are other idealistic fragmented versions of a life of travel we do see.

Last Spring semester 2018, I fulfilled a dream of mine to study abroad. I made all the arrangements: meeting with the study abroad advisor, attending many meetings, choosing a destination, choosing a program, applying for a student visa, ensuring my passport and other documents were secure, making sure I would still be on track to graduate accordingly, filling out paperwork, emails, calls, etc.

I chose Spain because I wanted a sense of freedom from the typical choices of an English major, like England, Ireland, and France. Since Le Moyne didn’t offer a specific program in Spain, I applied to study abroad through CEA (Cultural Excursions Abroad). They offered an internship, and as this is my year of opportunities, I made the most of mine and completed an internship at a local school and aiding teachers in the three, four, and six-year-old classes.

Then there was arriving. There are so many feelings, memories, and particulars that I often become overwhelmed when responding to any questions related to my time abroad. Everyone wants to know about what it was really like to live a whole semester in another country.

There are YouTube channels, Instagram profiles, Pinterest boards to channel or inspire a longing to travel. Travel is not everything. Yes, the first-hand experience of the Cliffs of Moher or a genuine taste of a French crepe is unmatched, but it won’t complete you if you aren’t happy already.

I can tell you about every place I saw, all the foods I’ve tasted, the people I’ve met, even the weather. I choose to tell you about what surprised me, what I didn’t know, what I wanted to know, and the unfiltered, unacknowledged, and mundane bits of travel.

1). Plane rides are exhausting, but they are affordable and accessible, at least in Europe. Ryanair is the Walmart of planes.

2.) Spanish food does not equal Mexican.

3.) Cities such as London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Barcelona are like vanilla ice cream covered in different sprinkles. Each city is vastly specific to its country, but with millions of people, there is a point to which they cater more to tourists. Everything is expensive, and you find they are more international than expected.

5.) If you walk everywhere, bad weather absolutely sucks.

6.) Tourist traps are real. Research the place you’ll be visiting prior to arriving.

Eventually, the exciting city you’ve traveled thousands of miles to becomes familiar. It’s not always as glossy as it appears. You still need to do laundry, grocery shop, finish homework and other assignments (hopefully your professors are as gracious and chill as mine and you have Fridays off with hardly any work outside of class). The common structures of everyday life will prove everyone, everywhere has a routine.

Travel is not merely about realizing the wonders of what life abroad can offer, but it also reminds you of how home is unappreciated and overlooked. I felt more homesick than I want to remember.

At times, I would want to share a feeling, sight, or memory with my friends and family, one that can’t be described, but is synonymous only to location; it’s collective to the immediate or entire exposure, or I wouldn’t be able to contact them due to bad service, time zones, or schedules.

It was a time of severity and a time of mellowness. It was a season of firsts. It was doing Paris on a weekend. it was watching the city as an outsider, but slowly becoming a local. It was getting lost, but soon learning every backstreet and shortcut to “home.” It was looking up at the sky and imagining how many miles away you are from the real home. It was the struggles of time-zones, and the feeling of being intertwined into two worlds.

Studying abroad did change me. However, you have also been changed by whatever season you recently grew through. Whether you were in the confines of your hometown or on campus. It could have been through a job, a relationship, a class, your friends, family. You could have moved or stayed stagnant physically, but these experiences have all affected you remarkably.

Study abroad taught me how to be independent. It revealed to me how I can make the best or worst of situations. No place is heaven, but you are allowed a glimpse of how giving this world can be. If you do travel, seek the places unheard of. Remember, travel is another form of growth, but you can also do this in an abundance of ways wherever you are. The world is round, from which, observing in a poetic understanding, I can presume everything comes full-circle.

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All About a Life Abroad