This week I'm going to talk about a few things that study abroad has taught me. I have to admit that in the beginning of my time in Europe, I'd rather be in Madrid than Paris, so I wasn't sure I would get anything out of this experience. I think at one point, I was actually a little bit bitter because I felt like I'm not enjoying my study abroad experience as much as everyone else is. But as the program is wrapping up, I did a little reflection and I realized how much I've learned/matured throughout this four months I've been away from my comfort zone.
1. An appreciation of art. Europe is the center of art. I wouldn't say I was a brute before coming to Paris but I've definitely gone to more museums than I have previously combined during my stay in Europe. I mean, there's just so much around. Louvre, L'Orangerie, D'orsay etc are just the big names. There are countless less famous museums scattered around Paris and they don't pale out in comparison either. Churches are also one of my main things. Even though I am not a Christian myself, I admire the intricate designs whenever I encounter one, and since there are so many churches in Europe, it's really fun to compare and contrast the different styles/ epoch of the churches. I even decided to take an art history course (Italian Art and Architecture in the 16th century) once I get back to GW next semester. Also, I recently got into Dan Brown's books and since a lot of the settings of his book are based in Paris/ Italy, it was very interesting for me to go see those places in real life. Not to mention the background info that was provided in the books gave me the privilege of playing the tour guide to my friends when we go visit famous historical landmarks and made me look smarter than I actually am. *brush dust off the shoulder*
2. Embrace solitude. It's hard sometimes, studying abroad, especially if you're in the direct enroll program instead of taking collective classes at a study center. That being said, sometimes, it does get a little bit lonely when I can't find people to have dinner with. Back at GW, it was never really a problem because the probability of all my friends having prior engagements and not being able to make it to dinner is miniscule. Even with the rare occasions when this does happen, I'll just get chipotle to go and eat in my room, no big deal. Solitude enlarges itself when you're abroad in a foreign land where you can't completely master the language. I used to be terrified of being alone but as I get myself lost in those winding European streets, I realized that solitude is ok. I just came back from a week-long solo trip in Italy and I visited this small island off of the coast of Venice called Burano, and as cheesy as it sounds, I found inner peace. It was a tiny fishing village with brightly painted houses. I walked past the tourists and into this very quiet neighborhood, and it was just me and the water and the houses, and I’ve never felt so at peace with myself at that moment. It was nice to get away sometimes, all by yourself, and just think, because most of the time we are so wrapped out with pesky little things, all cooped up in a city, that it's hard to hear ourselves think sometimes. I was able to think a lot of things through on my one-man-wolfpack trip.
3. Learn to let go. I hate letting go, albeit it be an old sweater or a friend. I just dread the feeling of losing things. I met a lot of new people here in Europe and 95% of them I'm pretty sure I will never see again in my life, even though we all parted with "oh yeah I'll come visit you for sure", we all know that's never gonna happen. There's this French friend of mine who's a really private person and doesn't have any form of social media to interact with others and during our last class together, I kind of puppy-eyed him and was like, "I'll never see you again." He shrugged, c'est la vie. And I realized, he is right, as much as I hate to admit it. Life is like a train, people get on and get off, rarely anyone will be there for you from start to finish. I made incredible friends at hostels while traveling and we had a blast, but it was like Cinderella's party, after the clock strikes 12, everything returns back to normal and we'll have to move on with life. It's a very helpless feeling, at least for me, because I can not stop the progression of time. I can not make those friends stay in my life, nor will I be able to stay for them either, so enjoy the feast while it lasts.