Ready, Set, Go Abroad!

When I was little, my parents used to ask me where I wanted to go to college and what I wanted to study. At the time, I only had one definitive answer for them: “I want to go abroad for a semester and explore the world”. I’m so lucky to say that I am living out my 13-year-old dream as I am sitting on the steps of the fountain in front of the Buckingham Palace reflecting on the first days of my semester studying abroad.

The weeks leading up to London were not easy. My semester started much later than all of my friends abroad and everyone back at BC. It was difficult watching everyone reunite after the summer and experience the excitement of moving into his or her homes off campus while I was stuck sitting on my couch at home anticipating my travels across seas. Briefly, I contemplated withdrawing my acceptance from my school in London because I was struggling with the idea of being way from BC and my best friends for so long.

Even though I have only been here for 9 days, I can already say with confidence that choosing to study abroad will be one of the greatest decisions I’ve made in my 21 years. My first days in London have been nonstop from the minute I landed. I’ve spent this first week attending orientation sessions, meeting new people, shopping for essentials, and exploring the city. I also took a trip to Munich this past weekend and met up with other BC friends who are studying all over Europe!

Before we left for the summer, our study abroad advisor suggested to us that studying abroad would be a roller coaster of emotions. Although I was able to make friends with the other American study abroad students living in my flat and other BC students studying in London, I was still feeling a tinge of homesickness. It was highly stressful the first day as I tried to maneuver the Tube (the transportation system in London), find a grocery store, and get used to all of the small differences in the culture that was so new to me.

It has definitely been an exciting but exhausting first few days of my abroad experience, and I cannot wait to see what’s in store for the rest of my time here. This week I have my first classes, which could potentially bring some stress back into my life, but I think that I’ll be going uphill on this rollercoaster for a while now. Now I need to get back to London, explore some more, and try some fish and chips…will update soon!

Look at me in Italy!

Somebody once said, “Life is a combination of magic and pasta,” so I thought to myself, ‘what better place to spend my first semester junior year than in Milan, Italy?’ My name is Michael Flynn and I am studying Economics with a minor in Italian. Since I was a freshman, all I could do was think about spending a semester in Italy. Then, the day finally came.
​When I arrived, my mind was agog with all the possibilities this new city offered me, and I could not wait to seize every one of them. I spent the first week seeing everything I had wanted to see in the city (my list of sites was the product of many intense Google sessions over the summer). One of the sites I found while researching was the giant middle finger statue in front of the Italian stock market. Another was the Last Supper by Da Vinci. That first week seemed amazing and I thought, if the rest of my time in Milan continues like this, I will just have to stay here forever.
But there was something for which I was not prepared – the second week. After I spent the first week exploring with all these new people and seeing all these new things, I finally stopped for a second and just thought. I thought about how I missed my family, and my friends at BC. I thought about how I just spent every day with these people running around Milan but they knew little more than my name. I purposely chose to come in the fall because I wanted full immersion in Italy and I knew not a lot of other BC students were coming. When I saw everyone else, however, already traveling with their friends from BC that all went abroad together, I began to doubt that I truly wanted that. I was not immersing myself the way I thought either. I had signed up for an Italian class and sat in it for 15 minutes before dropping it, so now all my classes were taught in English, and I was missing everyone at BC. I did not like this feeling at all so I decided it was time for a much needed self-date. A self-date is when you treat yourself.
​I went back on Google and looked for “homey” restaurants, and I found one. I went and I practiced my Italian–and it was wonderful. While I was enjoying the best food that I have had in Milan, I sat there and I thought some more. How did I make friends at BC? It seemed like I had one good friend at the beginning, and then making new friends just became so much easier. But I met all my new friends through my old ones. Even though I was in Italy I thought to myself “why can’t that work here?”.
The next day, I reached out to a teacher from my high school who moved to teach in Milan and she gave me the contact of one of her old students, Annamaria. I was finally doing what I wanted to abroad, get outside of my comfort zone and meet Italians. I reached out to a family friend who lives in Italy and is studying at Bocconi and we went for sushi. She speaks almost no english at all pressing me to practice my italian even more. Then I started to meet people from my dorm, which is almost entirely Italians, because I refused to live in the International dorm that was 15 minutes away by tram. I mean what kind of junior wants to live on Newton?
All of these choices that I made to push me out of my comfort zone so quickly became quite daunting during my second week as I tried to adjust to classes and what seemed like a whole new world. But I’m happy I made them. Although I had a rough second week because of them, it seemed like everything was falling into place. I love my classes and my new Italian friends. Life in Italy can truly be amazing if you just drop your fears and allow yourself to experience it. I mean, I am just an Irish guy pretending to be an Italian, and with my vocabulary and comfort level picking up, people are finally starting to fall for it. I’ll let you know how I am doing later but the big test is this week, fashion week – Wish me luck.

Living in Spain, don’t speak the language

¡Hola! My name is Hilary and I’m from the North Shore of Chicago. I’m a junior at Boston College and studying Finance and Business Analytics with a minor in International Studies for Management. I’ll be spending this fall in Madrid continuing my studies and (attempting) to learn Spanish.

The last thing my mom said to me before I left her at the United Airlines check in desk at O’Hare was “Remember: you look American!!”. Fast forward to my first week of classes at Carlos III University in Madrid and boy did I feel American. During my three months abroad I will be taking three classes in Spanish and only two in English. Now, the common question I got before I left was “Oh so you speak Spanish?”…well not really.

I came into college thinking I would pursue a Spanish minor in addition to something in the Carroll School Management. After my freshmen year I decided that although I loved learning about different cultures, I didn’t think a Spanish minor was for me. I instead decided to pursue the International Studies for Management minor through the Carroll School with a focus on Spanish speaking countries. Basically, what this means is that it has been over a year since I have taken a Spanish class!

My three classes in Spanish don’t sound quite as intimidating when I break them down… one is Spanish language class with all international students, the other is a class with my program coordinator and the twenty other Eagles spending the semester in Madrid with me and the third is a class about Spanish politics with all international students. Now, that doesn’t sound so bad, but it turns out that “international students” can still mean that you’re very good at Spanish. I would say the majority of students are very capable Spanish speakers and it makes me pretty embarrassed to speak. I’m going on week two of classes here and I’m yet to participate in class. Although now I’m incredibly intimidated by the language and unbelievably aware of how American I look, I’m excited for the challenge. I’ll check back when I’m halfway through and hablaré español.