5 Things I've Learned After Studying Abroad

5 Things I've Learned After Studying Abroad

I'm ready to go home, but not ready to leave.

Three months ago, I was packing to study abroad. I had no idea what to expect, yet simultaneously had a million expectations. I was going to see all of Europe, travel constantly, meet tons of new people, and jump out of my comfort zone. I'm not a partier by any means, but I was determined to fully experience everything possible. After all, study abroad is the opportunity to become a totally new person.

Some of my preconceived ideas were true. I have traveled, met lots of amazing people, and certainly got out of my comfort zone. But some of my ideas were disproved. So after three months in Europe, here's what I've learned:

1. It's not so different.

England has been very similar to home in a lot of ways. There's KFC, college students wear leggings constantly, and Netflix is just the same. Within all of that, it's easy to forget that I'm abroad until I get off campus and into the city. It's surprised me how quickly I adjusted, and how quickly this place has felt like home. And then suddenly I'll be on a train, passing fields of sheep with the ruins of an ancient tower in the middle, and it'll hit me that we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. Travelling is weird like that: you can adjust to almost anything, but some things will always surprise you.

2. You still have to study.

This might seem obvious. After all, it's study abroad. Especially in England, however, it's been difficult to stay focused. I haven't had any graded assignments yet, and my final papers are 100% of my final grades, so it's dangerously easy to slack off. On the one hand, this situation is great: I can travel on weekends and not worry about a quiz on Tuesday or a paper on Friday. Take advantage of your free time, but don't forget that it'll all come down to that final paper. And pro tip: your professors know if you've put in the effort.

3. You need less than you think you do.

Travel light. Please, God, travel light. It's so easy to rationalize those four sweaters and two pairs of jeans and a spare pair of shoes, but trust me, you'll be happier with just a backpack. For a three-day trip, I ended up taking one pair of leggings, two t-shirts, a sweater, and the clothes on my back. Wear your bulkiest clothes on the plane, and always leave room for gifts and souvenirs. Trust me: you'll buy them.

4. Things are expensive.

Admittedly, this is the same at home. But when you're in a new country, you're going to want to go into town, go to dinner, buy the macaroons from that bakery. I'm all for treating yourself: this is a once in a lifetime experience, and you have to take advantage of it while you're here. But prepare beforehand. Work hard, save up, and be careful once you're abroad. You don't need those chicken nuggets, but you're going to want the coffee at the sidewalk cafe in Paris.

5. You'll be ready to go home, but not ready to leave.

I don't know how to explain this feeling. With the holidays approaching, I'm excited to go home, curl up with my family, and enjoy my mom's pumpkin bread. But on the other hand, I can't believe I have less than two weeks left in my time here. After years spent planning and dreaming of studying abroad, the experience is almost over, and I'm certainly not ready for that. I've come to the realization that there will always be more things to do and more places to see. I could spend my entire life in Europe and still have more to experience. But I've done everything I wanted to in my limited time here, so it's time to go home.

Studying abroad is one of the greatest things you can experience. Getting out of your comfort zone can be scary, but at the end of your trip you'll be a new person. I don't want to leave, but I'm going back home with new ideas, new outlooks, and a new sense of just how huge the world is.

Cover Image Credit: Pexel

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

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.

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.


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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