The Value Of Studying Abroad

The Value Of Studying Abroad

Your heart will be warm for four continuous months.

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It has been a little over two months since I left the place that captivated my heart for so many months and I don't think I could say enough good things about studying abroad. While abroad you will try new foods, delve into new experiences, and make so many heartwarming and unforgettable memories. Here a few of the ~deeper~ reasons I LOVED studying abroad.

Confidence. I have never felt more confident or had more control over my life ever. There is something about being abroad in a new environment that made me feel in complete control even when I absolutely was not. I could prioritize growth over stress and schoolwork which was the first time in my entire life I have been able to do that. I learned so much about myself through the experiences traveling, trying new things, and meeting new people.

The people. Oh my goodness the people. Who knew strangers from colleges across the country could become my close friends in the blink of an eye. The relationships formed and strengthened abroad were SO strong. There were so many hours spent together traveling, cooking, exploring, and catching up that I think my heart was constantly full. I have made new lifelong friends in so many parts of the US and strengthened relationships with old friends and our reunions can't come soon enough.

The experiences. It sounds so cliche to say that abroad changed me, but it truly did. I will never ever be lucky enough to travel the world like that ever again. I was exposed to new cultures, traditions, food, and people every weekend and in my own backyard. Every day was a new adventure which made every day of being abroad incredibly valuable and treasured. Immersing yourself full heartedly in a new culture was the change I needed to grow and thrive.

So if you are even considering studying abroad (and have the ability to) please do. Each day will create new memories and the people you meet will make your heart so incredibly happy.

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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