By: Nancy Simon, Pharm.D. Candidate c/o 2016
Exploring cities while getting lost, viewing beautiful sights, and eating delicious food: all highlights of my study abroad experience. This past semester was more than I ever expected; I do not even know where to begin. I participated in the Discover the World program through St. John’s University, which included studying abroad in three countries for five weeks each. My first module was Seville, Spain. This was the first year that students were able to study in the city of Seville rather than in Salamanca, where previous students studied. Since St. John’s does not have its own campus in Spain, as it does in Paris, France and Rome, Italy, we lodged at a youth hostel, mainly inhabited by traveling students. My next module was in Paris; it was definitely a very pretty city, but also very high-scale. My last and most favorite module was in Rome; I have never eaten so much pizza and pasta in my life, and I loved every minute of it.
It was awesome observing the different cultures and behaviors of the people in these three European cities. I think that is what I loved most about traveling. We also had to factor in studying; classes were either three or four days a week, which meant weekends were the perfect time to explore the rest of Europe. I definitely did not waste any time. The beauty, food, and atmosphere of Seville fascinated me so much that I wanted to visit other parts of Spain and see what it was like and how it was different. I booked a trip to Madrid and Barcelona. They were two very large cities that were so different from the small town of Seville. I really liked the different atmosphere, but after experiencing the city-life of Madrid, and the touristy atmosphere of Barcelona, I was so happy that I had the opportunity to live in a small Spanish town, where I could really embrace the Spanish culture. Almost no one knew English, and there were not too many tourists around all the time. In addition, because Seville was such a small town, my friends and I walked everywhere and really got to know the city. It gave me the opportunity to really take everything in and appreciate it.
Another thing I loved about Spain was that everything was affordable. Everyone got a reality check once we landed in Paris. This big city was a drastic change from living in a small town, but we all adjusted quickly. I explored the classy city; went up the Eiffel Tower; browsed through the shops on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées; and ate delicious food including escargot and frog legs – which may not sound appetizing, but are definitely worth trying! I was taking it all in, but I wanted to see more. I got the chance to go on a canal in Holland, eat the most amazing waffles in Belgium, take a ride on the London Eye, and attend the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in none other than Ireland! Words cannot describe the feeling of being able to see all these beautiful places – I feel truly blessed.
I loved exploring Europe more and more as the days went by, and the day finally came when we moved to Rome. That meant that we only had five more weeks left in Europe and time was of the essence. I completely fell in love with Italy – the history, the people, and of course… the food! I could never have enough gelato and pizza. I will also never forget seeing the Pope and being able to attend Easter Mass at the Vatican, which was such a humbling experience.
As Ralph Crawshaw put it, “Travel has a way of stretching the mind. The stretch comes not from travel’s immediate rewards, the inevitable myriad new sights, smells and sounds, but with experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we believed to be the right and only way.” This past semester’s worth of travels is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. I still cannot believe that I had the opportunity to visit so many places, and see how people of different cultures did everything in their own way. This experience has opened my eyes to the world in ways I cannot describe.
I believe that studying outside of my hometown in New York has been extremely essential to my growth, and my mind has definitely been stretched. After this trip, I believe everyone should have the experience of living on the other side of the world and take the time to appreciate different cultures. If you ask me anything about all the places I have been, I could tell you everything about my travels and talk for hours, but it will never compare to actually being there and experiencing it firsthand.
Traveling all across Europe has definitely made me a better person. I see everything in a new perspective now and have learned to appreciate everything in our world – which indeed is a very beautiful place if we explore and find its beauty. After visiting and seeing many countries, my desire for traveling has only increased. I yearn to see China, Brazil, Australia, Alaska, and more. All I have left to look back on my adventure are my pictures and memories, but even those do not do the places justice. I can easily say that the past four months were the best of my life, and studying abroad was an experience that I will never forget.