6 Things You Learn During Your First Week Abroad

6 Things You Learn During Your First Week Abroad

There's no place like home, but home is what (and where) you make it.
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I have officially been in England for one week, four days, and two hours, and it's all be chaos. I have eleven more weeks, but I don't think I really understood the meaning of 'study abroad' until this past weekend, when I finally had some time to digest. Yes, I may be halfway across the planet, but so far it's really not that different from my freshman year.

1. It's just as awkward as your first year.

Those awkward conversations with strangers? Turns out they're the same, regardless of the language barrier. Figuring out the shower situation with your roommates can still be frustrating, and a shared kitchen space is just as chaotic (and sometimes just as gross) as it is back at home.

2. You will get lost.

Because my campus in England is considerably smaller than my home campus, I thought I would learn my way around much faster. I was so wrong. This morning I spent about five minutes sitting in the wrong lecture hall, before realizing that I am not studying pharmacy. Just my luck: the only door to the classroom was located directly next to the professor's podium. Laughter in an English accent is just as embarrassing as laughter in a southern accent.

3. You will miss your school back home.

I love studying abroad, I really do. But sometimes I also miss home, where my friends are, where I know my way around, and where there are warm, gooey Lenoir cookies. With that said, there are also new friends, you will learn your way around, and there are cookies in every country on Earth. I promise.

4. You will not be prepared to study.

Going abroad is typically a vacation, and getting out of this mentality is difficult. I had notebooks, pencils, and my laptop was charged, but until I sat down in my first lecture hall I didn't fully comprehend that I'm here to study. Travel and experience the world, but don't forget to make a little time for that philosophy reading.

5. The weather may confuse you.

I am studying abroad in England. I was prepared for rain. So far, there have been exactly 2 rainy days while I've been here, and it's been warm until sunset every day. That's not to say it won't be cold and rainy in the future, but I'm definitely glad that I brought my basic t-shirts and jeans, not just long sleeves and rain boots. Pro tip: don't forget to also plan for trips! If I go to Italy, I'll definitely be glad to have my sundress and sandals, and in Iceland I'm sure I'll want my sweater and scarves.

6. You'll need to treat yourself.

I know that I am surrounded by glorious, rich, delicous coffee, but after a particularly homesick day last week, I really only wanted a Starbucks mocha frappucino. So I got one. Don't be afraid to treat yourself to something that feels like home, even if it seems frivolous. Studying abroad thrusts you into an entirely new environment, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with doing something to make it feel like home.


Final Thoughts:

Studying abroad is a huge, exciting, scary adventure. Sometimes you'll feel like you're in a different universe, and sometimes it'll feel just like your first year, but regardless, it'll eventually become home. Keep in mind that two (or ten) awkward experiences aren't the end of the world, and regardless of the language difference, every college student feels a little homesick. Even if that home is halfway across the planet.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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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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Everyone Should Visit Rome At Least Once In His Or Her Life

The atmosphere of the city truly makes you feel like you're in the middle of a movie set.

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I am writing this article while sitting on a bus heading from Rome to the airport to catch my flight to Paris and it has given me some time to reflect on my last few days here. After spending quite a bit of time here, I definitely think that If you get the opportunity to travel to Rome, you should do so, you will not regret it. You may be asking yourself, why is Rome so special and fantastic? Isn't it just home to the Colosseum, the Vatican, and some good Italian restaurants? The answer is no, Rome is so much more than that, it's fabulous cuisine, jaw-dropping architecture, fantastic attractions, and it truly makes you feel as if you've been transported back in time and are in the middle of history.

While in Rome, my family and I had the opportunity to visit both the famous Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum. Both of these incredible attractions made us feel as if we were really there, in Ancient Rome and in the presence of Michelangelo as he painted the ceiling of the chapel. In addition, the jaw-droppingly gorgeous architecture added to the beauty of the city. From the Trevi fountain to the capital building to the statues in the Vatican, every structure made me look up in absolute awe. Truthfully, it is well worth going to Rome just to see the beautiful architecture.

Furthermore, the atmosphere of the city truly makes you feel like you're in the middle of a movie set. Everything is so picturesque that you feel like it isn't even real like it's a facade. One day my family and I stopped to have a snack at this small restaurant that was situated on a quiet street and we all kept remarking at how it was so beautiful (and how the food was so good) and especially how it felt like we were on the set of a movie, with how picturesque and quiet it was. Simply put, the sights of Rome are breathtakingly beautiful! Everywhere you look you find more "hidden gems" that add more and more beauty to an already incredible city.

In addition to talking about all of the beautiful architecture, great attractions, and amazing atmosphere, how can one go to Rome and not talk about the food! The food in Rome in indescribably good. The pizza, while very different from what you typically find in a pizza place in the United States, is extremely fresh and delicious. The pasta was absolutely amazing and much thicker than what you would find in America. The vegetables were extremely fresh, especially the tomatoes which were very red and actually much sweeter than I anticipated.

Overall, from its architecture to its atmosphere to its attractions to its food, going to Rome was an incredible experience. And it was definitely an experience that I will never forget! I will definitely be back for another experience of a lifetime! Now it's on to Paris and then London. Ciao, for now, Rome, and Grazie (that's thank you in Italian) for everything.

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