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.

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(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.”

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.

Gone so Soon?

It’s a weird feeling to dread Christmas. Ignoring the Christmas carols, not eating candy from an advent calendar, having to pretend to my parents that I was excited to go home. This year the countdown to Christmas was a countdown to the most distressing day of the year: the day I would have to say goodbye to my favorite place in the world.

As I rode in the taxi to El Prat the final time on December 23rd, I was so, so, SO unbelievably sad. I looked out the window and watched the city disappear behind me like in the movies and thought about how I wasn’t even close to being finished with Europe, let alone Barcelona. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry until I got on the plane home after spending Christmas and New Year’s with my family in London, but I cry a lot and couldn’t help but tear up a little (a lot) while trying to reconcile the fact that I most likely won’t be back to my beautiful city for many, many years.

At my lowest moment during that taxi ride, El Prat came into view and before the tearing-up turned into straight ugly crying, Funkytown came on the radio. I kid you not. Way to ruin the sad reflective mood! But can anyone cry when Funkytown is on? NO! So I rolled up to El Prat with a tear-free face and a groovy song that would be stuck in my head for at least the next 24 hours.

And really, is there a better way to describe Barcelona than a funky town? Despite the major shortcomings of my program, Barcelona was still able to keep me movin’, keep me groovin’ with some energy (that’s a Funkytown lyric). Every day was so full of life and so little sleep that I don’t think I could have gotten more out of my abroad experience if I tried. However, I do think I’ll need a couple more months to recover.

As is customary when gallivanting around Europe for 4 months, I learned so much this past semester. But mostly I learned that life doesn’t end after abroad. How enlightening, Christina! Let me explain. My plans in college were as follows: Uh, okay, freshman and sophomore year you’re good. Then you’ll go abroad and after that you’ll figure out what you want to do with your life and graduate.

Well, now the abroad part is over. My plan, if you can even call it that, ends now.

The countdown made me dread leaving Barcelona (Obviously, because it’s the greatest place ever), but I was also scared to death of coming home and having nothing to look forward to, nothing but my future to figure out. But you know what? Whatever. Qué será, será. Barcelona showed me  that you can never plan on anything really, but it’ll probably turn out better than you expect if you keep an open mind. So, here’s me looking to the next year and a half with an open mind and awaiting the chance to go on any and all adventures it presents.

Gracias por todo, Barcelona. Ya te echo de menos. Nos veremos de nuevo algún día 🙂

Christina Moore

The End of an Eternal Summer

It’s just the beginning of December, but for me, this semester in Brisbane, Australia has come to an end. Looking over my journal on the 25 hour trip home, I had one of the most amazing semesters of my life. I took trips all across Australia and New Zealand, swam with sharks on the Great Barrier Reef, sailed through the Whitsunday Islands, hiked through the outback, toured Sydney, hiked through national forests and visited plenty of beaches. The trips have been amazing, but I’ve also been lucky enough to make some of the best friends I’ve ever met over the past four months. This semester has been easier academically than most and when you add that to the endless sunshine of Australia, I had tons of time to hang out with my new friends. I was lucky enough to live in International House, which is sort of like a fraternity for students from Korea, South Africa, the US, England, China, Australia and many more! When I left to go abroad to Australia, I thought the culture would be almost identical to my experiences in the US (or at least California). Instead, I was surprised by the debates and differences I had with my new friends. Saying goodbye was definitely hard, but I’m happy to know some amazing people who live all around the world. So back to America I go! Time and time again this semester, I found myself saying, “This is amazing, but I can’t wait for _______.” For each trip I went on, I had another one waiting just around the corner. I had a semester of continual adventures, and now I’m off to another one! This time I’ll exchange my tan and sand-filled backpack for a winter coat and Christmas decorations. Compared to the other students abroad this semester, I have a relatively long winter break, and so I’ve planned even more trips to keep me going! Off to ski with my family and visit friends back in Boston, my semester of eternal summer has finally ended. It was amazing, but I can’t wait for the next adventure just around the corner. Cheers mate!

Alyssa Florack

Where is the boat?

I cannot believe I have already been in Venice for over two months! I have adjusted to the six hour time difference, being away from my family and asking for the boat instead of the bus. I honestly have surprised myself with how well I have adjusted to the abroad life. The first week was hard but I threw myself into researching what classes to take, meeting new friends and planning trips. So far I have been to five countries other than Italy (Switzerland, France, Germany, Spain and England). Everyone told me how easy it was to travel within Europe, but I never realized it would be this easy!

 

The classes I decided to take line up perfectly with my desire to travel. I’m taking Great Works of Art Revisited and have never found art so interesting. Did you know the Mona Lisa was stolen? Or that doctors thought she smiled that way because she only had half a brain? I had the opportunity to learn about the Mona Lisa in class and then the next week I was in Paris actually looking at her “in person”.

 

One thing different then BC (other than the fact that I take a boat to school) is that we have a fall break. During the fall break I was fortunate enough to have my parents, aunt and uncle come over and visit me. We went to a small town four hours from Venice called Cigliano and we met my (very distant) Italian family! I was able to see where my great-grandmother was born and grew up. The family treated us to a traditional eight course Italian meal. The food kept coming! I am proud to say I tried every dish including cow brain. It was an incredible experience to meet these family members and learn more about where I came from. It has definitely been one of my favorite abroad moments so far.

 

While being abroad I feel like I have also seen history up close. During my trip to Germany, my train got rerouted due to closed borders because of the refugee crisis. I saw refugees at the border being turned away. It broke my heart to see a family turned away with nowhere to go. Experiencing the crisis in that moment resonated with me more than any textbook readings ever could have. Another moment where I experienced history was in Rome at the Vatican. I was fortunate enough to hear the pope speak, and just as importantly got a “selfie” with him! He was extremely gracious and traveled around the audience first and stopped to kiss every baby.

 

While there are moments (like Halloween and the Red Bandana football game) where I wish I was at BC, I know I have made one of the greatest decisions of my life. In these two months I have already seen myself grow and become a more independent person. I’ve seen more places then I could have ever imagined and I still have more trips planned!

italian family.jpg

Me with my Italian family in Cigliano

Is it normal to eat this much pasta?

Ciao from Firenze!!

I have been here for about a month and a half and I feel like I am finally getting adjusted. The city of Florence is not too big, so we walk EVERYWHERE. My main food groups in Florence include pasta, pizza, gelato, panini, and the occasional healthy salad, so I hope all the walking cancels this out.

I live in an apartment with two of my friends from BC, and two girls from Providence College. We’re on the fourth floor of a building that has a very sketchy elevator, so yeah, I prefer to walk up the 85 stairs. I now feel prepared to stop avoiding the Million Dollar Staircase when I return back to BC. I am studying at Florence University of the Arts, which mainly consists of American students from other schools such as Fairfield, Saint Joseph’s, University of San Diego, and Loyola Maryland. Since I have classes four days a week here, it’s nice to have a long weekend to travel. Italy is in a pretty central location of Europe, so I have been traveling to tons of places on the weekends like the Amalfi Coast, Munich, Madrid, Paris, and Dublin. After a week of midterms this past week, we have a weeklong fall break to do more traveling to London, Lisbon, and Barcelona.

Although I have taken an Italian language class for seven years of my life, everyone knows I’m still American and will talk back in English even when I think I blend in so well. Even though a lot of people speak English here, it definitely helps knowing some Italian so can I ask for directions or translate menus for my friends.

There are also so many American college students here so I haven’t really felt homesick. I get a serious case of fomo every time I watch Snapchat stories from BC tailgates or see #gassongrams on Instagram, but I know I am having a truly incomparable experience abroad and it is going to be so worth it!

Arrivaderci
~ Lauren D’Alessandro

A picture from the first day in Florence!

A picture from the first day in Florence in front of Santa Croce!

Lost track of how many Margherita pizzas I've eaten

Lost track of how many Margherita pizzas I’ve eaten