Time Flies When You’re Having the Best Semester of Your Life

Today, as I crossed Waterloo Bridge on my way to class, it hit like a murky silt-filled wave from the River Thames – I only have three weeks left in London. For some reason, maybe it was the fact that the sun was out or that I was jamming out to one of my current favorite songs, but a huge smile spread across my face as passed over the bridge and realized the extent of my love for this city. It’s incredible to me how comfortable I have become with London in only a matter of months. London can officially join the ranks with Chicago and Boston as another city that I will feel homesick towards.

Before we left campus for the summer, our advisor held an information session for all of the BC students who would be studying abroad in London during 2016/2017. Among the important clerical details that he covered, he stressed the fact that our study abroad journeys would be a rollercoasters of emotion. When he first told us this, I doubted its validity. I knew it would be tough in the beginning, but how could I ever want to leave? But now, with only three short weeks left in London, I’m realizing how much my feelings truly fluctuate.

My emotions are especially out of whack after missing Thanksgiving, and I’m starting to feel homesick again. Watching everyone’s Snapchat stories of them reuniting with their beloved dogs, cats, family members and local foods has me eager to be home. While everyone else spent last Thursday stuffing their faces with turkey, cornbread and casseroles, I was sitting in class from 9AM until 5PM. Although Thanksgiving has never been a massive event with my family, I wish I was spending the holiday in sweatpants watching the Cowboys game and eating pies until I passed out.

At the same time, I’m getting really sad about leaving this country so soon. I’ve been working on completing some of the “places to go in London” from my running list which includes museums, food places, festivals and day trips around the U.K., many of which have yet to be checked off. I’m beginning freak out about trying to fit in all of my London bucket-list items to my short schedule while simultaneously writing an abundance of essays for class. There is so much left to do and see here, but I also want more time to just relax, walk around, and take it all in.

While I wish it could be all up, up, up, on the rollercoaster of emotion that is study abroad, I knew I would end up feeling this way when Thanksgiving came around. The good thing is, I have a lot to look forward to. My parents will be flying to London a few days before the end of classes so I will have a chance to show them around my city. For now, I’ll have to do my best to remain heads down on my essays so that I can enjoy the heck out of my final weeks in London with my friends and family.

Advertisements

(an Eagle) flyin’ solo

With only a month left in my semester abroad I thought it seemed about time to check in…

A piece of advice for anyone who plans on studying abroad: take a trip by yourself. This past weekend I took my first ~solo trip~ of the semester to Budapest. I’ve been loving my time in Madrid and will be spending the majority of my last month here, but took this weekend to head (back) to Eastern Europe (side note: almost all of my travels this semester have been to Eastern Europe, but I still understand zero German/Polish/Hungarian… my Spanish however is improving…a little).

Before I left I did some research—being alone meant I was calling all the shots for what I did and I had a limited amount of time to see what I wanted to. I read through my trusty Lonely Planet and did some Google searches to make a list of things I wanted to see when I was there. I also decided to sign up for the “River Ride”—basically Budapest’s version of a duck tour. I figured this would be a good way to orient myself with the city and would be easy to do alone.

I also brought my running shoes—I guess this might be the athlete in me (shout out BC rowing)—but I think running around a city is a great way to see it. I’ve gone on some runs in Madrid and there’s something about it that is a very calming way to explore.

I got in late on Friday night (thanks for the delays @airberlin but they made up for it because you get chocolate when you get off the plane). It was late and I was pretty exhausted from sitting on a plane all day so I ordered room service (sorry mom) and went to bed.

The next morning my day started with that run I mentioned… There’s a river in Budapest that divides the Buda and the Pest side so I ran along it. I also browsed through what other people on Map my Run had done (great app, by the way) and noticed there was an island that had a running trail. I decided that would be a cool way to see the city because I would have to go across the bridge.

After my run I went on my river tour before setting out on foot (again) to explore. I stumbled upon this AMAZING creation that I decided to have for breakfast. It was basically kind of like a funnel cake, but had ice cream in the middle and was COVERED and sugar and chocolate sauce. It was DELICIOUS. I also enjoyed some fried dough with sour cream smothered on it, apparently a local specialty because I also had it for dinner.

I spent the rest of the day following my trusty Google maps app to various locations around the city. I ended my day by taking in the world famous Christmas market (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). Probably the happiest I’ve been since being abroad. The people were so friendly and I got so many cool homemade gifts for friends and family.

The moral of the story is I had a great time. I loved just walking around and exploring Budapest. I highly, highly recommend to anyone who goes abroad to spend one weekend by him or herself. Whether that be in your own city when everyone else is traveling or going to a new place all alone, I think it’s definitely worth it. I have been lucky to do a fair amount of traveling, some of which alone (yes I promise I have friends). There are some awkward aspects—like asking the old lady to take a solo picture of yourself to send to your mom to prove you’re alive. Or eating a meal alone in a restaurant. Or even walking around with chocolate on your face because no one was there to tell you. But I really think it’s an amazing learning experience and you’ll leave feeling very accomplished.

Saludos,

Hilary

Halfway?! I got here yesterday!

I was shocked when I looked at my calendar and realized I had more days behind me than in front of me. I sat there and realized that I am more than half way done with my study abroad experience. While I was sitting there, I started to think more and more about what it even means to study abroad. As I sat in Piazza del Duomo, I realized that study abroad is not just about the actual classes you attend abroad, in fact I think it is based very little on that. I believe study abroad is about the whole experience and the learning that takes place out of the classroom is somehow more important and more real. Who knows? Maybe I’d only like to believe that because I’m not doing so well in one of my classes or maybe it’s because I like to think there is real value in my trips. Either way, it is evident that every single second I am learning.
When I first arrived in Italy, I stayed with family friends in a small town called Fabriano. They continually asked me, “tutto a posto?” which means, “is everything okay?” Even though I had studied Italian, that phrase was something I had never heard before. It bothered me that the first simple thing I was asked, I couldn’t answer. This is when I decided I would try to learn everything about every place to which I went, and this started with Milan.
Milan is a very big city with so many opportunities to offer. Unlike many study abroad students, I was not just looking for where the best bars were but rather I looking to discover the history of the city. Don’t get me wrong, I looked for the good bars too but my search didn’t stop there. In Milan I learned that the “quartieri” or regions of city, like Porta Romana or Porta Venezia, were named after actual doors in a medieval city wall, in some cases the doors are still there. In medieval times, it was where the travelers from Rome or Venice would meet the city gates. Every day in Milan I learn a little fact like this but I didn’t come to Europe just to learn about Milan, I wanted to learn about everything. I wanted to travel everywhere. I haven’t found the same type of friends in Milan that I have at BC and at home so I thought it all the more reason to travel and to explore.
My favorite trip thus far was to Ireland and London with my mom, but what can I say, I’m “un mammone”. Before travelling to Ireland, I reached out to distant family members and old friends who have been to Ireland so that I could plan the perfect trip. I learned so much about Ireland before I even set foot on the old sod. I learned about the Anglo-Normans, Strongbow, Cromwell, and the Easter Rising. These little bits of history I learned before my trip made my experience even more worthwhile. I really enjoyed Ireland because I was learning so much about family heritage and the history of Ireland in general, a history, which I never learned about in school. Ireland was also very interesting to me because I visited sites where I stepped into the past. Unlike an art museum, historical sites like Blarney Castle and Kilmainham Goal make the story of Ireland come alive, making you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. This is what abroad is all about. While I value the things that I’ve learned in class, I have realized that truly wonderful parts of study abroad are just waiting to be discovered outside of the classroom.
Although Ireland was my favorite, I was voraciously learning in every place I went, and not just about history. These trips have taught me about budgeting, planning, and organizing. Abroad as a whole has taught me so many things thus far because as someone famous once said “the best things you learn aren’t learned in a classroom.”