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.”


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