Briana: Fall in Florence

Briana Lirio is a University of Florida student studying abroad for Fall 2016 in Florence, Italy.  To learn more about her program, click here: FSU – Florence.

Lirio, Briana

  • What is your year and academic concentration?
    My name is Briana Lirio and I am a public relations major at the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. My minor is in business, which I am planning to continue pursuing in graduate school.
  • Have you traveled abroad before? If so, where and for what purpose?
    I actually have never left the country, which makes this experience a lot more exciting for me. I’ve only ridden on a plane once before, and that was at the age of nine and to New York, so I do not remember much about it.
  • Have you studied abroad before? If so, where and what did you study?
    I have never studied abroad before, so the next three and a half months in Italy will be the first time I experience any type of cultural immersion.
  • Where are you studying abroad and why did you choose to study there?
    I am studying abroad in Florence, Italy under the UF approved program “FSU in Florence.” I chose Italy because I wanted to go somewhere I have never been to before where it would be easy for me to become culturally immersed. I believe that because I am fluent in Spanish it will be easy for me to learn Italian, and that language is the foundation of most cultures.
  • What are you most looking forward to during your study abroad program?
    I am looking forward to exploring the different cities within Italy. I would love to personally experience seeing the artwork I have read so much about growing up.
  • What are some of your interests and hobbies?
    I love to read, my favorite book of all time is “Crime and Punishment.” Fyodor Dostoevsky does an excellent job of making the reader sympathize with a protagonist that can best be described as an anti-hero, someone who society would deem as unfit to live among us. However, most of my free time is spent doing the typical college student “stuff.” I love to go out with friends, and spend time with my family. I consider myself a food connoisseur (I once ate a burger that weighed 3 pounds, all on my own. I was so proud of myself I wanted to put it under the skills portion of my resume). I can binge watch Netflix for hours, and will only schedule my bathroom breaks between episodes in order to reach maximum watching efficiency. I love to try new things, even if I regret it immediately after. For my 19th birthday I went skydiving. It was probably one of the worst experiences of my life, but I got some great photos for my Instagram so it was worth it. Fun fact, I am really good at knitting, I’ve gotten awards at the county fair for some of my work. I started knitting in high school because it seemed like an interesting skill to have, and I thought it would impress guys (I was wrong). It has been my dream ever since I was young to visit Italy, and I’m very excited that it will soon become a reality.

Jacqueline: Fall in Poitiers

Jacqueline Chavez is a University of Florida student studying abroad for the Academic Year 2016-17 in Poitiers, France.  To learn more about her program, click here: L’Institut d’Etudes Politiques – Poitiers campus.

Chavez, Jacqueline

  • What is your year and academic concentration?
    I am a third year-dual major in International Studies(with a concentration in Latin America) and Political science, with a minor in French.
  • Have you traveled abroad before? If so, where and for what purpose?
    Yes, I have gone to Mexico around 10 times with my parents during the summer because all of our family lives in Mexico, and my parents wanted to make sure that my younger brother, and I could appreciate our culture and roots. I traveled to Mexico for spring break 2016 with a few friends from UF.
  • Have you studied abroad before? If so, where and what did you study?
    I traveled to Paris for spring break 2015 for African Americans in Paris- a UF sponsored alternative break trip. It was a short study abroad experience, but it was enough to make me come back!
  • Where are you studying abroad and why did you choose to study there?
    For fall 2016 I am studying at the University Sciences Po- Poitiers, France. I chose the  Poitiers campus because it is focused on Latin American studies.I believe Sciences Po chose me. Sciences Po is ranked fifth in the world for undergraduate studies in political sciences and international studies. Although there are students here from all over the world, I am the only Mexican, only one of 2 Americans, and only one of 5 exchange students. After applications and interviews, I am finally here to indulge in a rich academia. I also chose the small town of Poitiers, so that I could really indulge in French culture and language. For spring 2015 I will be studying with Semester at Sea. For an entire semester I will live and study on a cruise ship while visiting 11 countries on the cost of Asia and Africa. Since I am studying in Europe this fall, I wanted a trip that would show me another part of the world. I want to see all that I have learned in history books come alive, I want to indulge in different cultures, and I want to discover how people who identify differently are more similar than they think. I hope this discovery will help me better prepare to pursue opportunities in international studies and international efforts towards peace.
  • What are you most looking forward to during your study abroad program?
    As I start welcome week at Sciences Po, my goals have shifted a little. I am really looking forward to seeing beyond myself. I want to be comfortable with being uncomfortable by pushing myself to indulge in a culture that is different. I am looking forward to not only traveling and seeing new things, but to also pushing the limits my mind creates. I am excited to better my French, and start my fourth language, Portuguese. I want to see how a first-generation Latino on a full scholarship like myself is similar to other students with different identities and how our minds can come together to create a better tomorrow.
  • What are some of your interests and hobbies?
    Of course one of my greatest interests is traveling! I also love to cook, although I am not the best! Dancing is my escape from all worries, just as is my violin. I els love to spend time with my family and friends, and I love to scrapbook my life adventures to have for years to come as keepsakes.

Irina: Fall in Bonn

Irina Bigoulaeva is a University of Florida student studying abroad for Fall 2016 in Bonn, Germany.  To learn more about her program, click here: Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität Bonn.

Bigoulaeva, Irina

  • What is your year and academic concentration?
    My majors are Philosophy and Linguistics and my minor is Math.
  • Have you traveled abroad before? If so, where and for what purpose?
    During tenth grade, I traveled to London for six days in a small group with my English teacher. The purpose was to visit and learn about some Shakespeare-related locations, since we were reading his plays at the time. I’ve also traveled to Russia a few times to visit relatives.
  • Have you studied abroad before? If so, where and what did you study?
    Apart from London, I’ve never studied abroad before.
  • Where are you studying abroad and why did you choose to study there?
    I’m studying abroad in Bonn, Germany. I’ve been learning the language for four years now and want to become fluent. Also, I’ve always wanted to study abroad, so this program will give me the chance to do both.
  • What are you most looking forward to during your study abroad program?
    Language immersion and experiencing daily life in Germany.
  • What are some of your interests and hobbies?
    Writing, music, walking, and studying languages.

Lauren: Fall in Seville

Lauren Barnard is a University of Florida student studying abroad for Fall 2016 in Seville, Spain.  To learn more about her program, click here: ISA – Seville (Universidad Internacional Menendez Pelayo Education in a Multicultural Context).

Barnard, Lauren

  • What is your year and academic concentration?
    I am a Senior in the Unified Elementary ProTeach Program within the College of Education.
  • Have you traveled abroad before? If so, where and for what purpose?
    As a military child, I am fortunate enough to have moved and traveled around quite a bit. I lived in Attleborough, England during primary school and was able to see much of Europe with my family during those years. I have also traveled to Guatemala on a Florida Alternative Breaks trip to study education inequality, and most recently went on a week-long road trip of Canada’s maritime provinces!
  • Have you studied abroad before? If so, where and what did you study?
    Nope, never.
  • Where are you studying abroad and why did you choose to study there?
    I chose to spend my fall semester in Sevilla, Spain! I landed on Sevilla after considering the city’s overall beauty and rich culture, as well as my program’s internship component within local schools. It also didn’t hurt that there’s a Starbucks (kidding, mostly).
  • What are you most looking forward to during your study abroad program?
    Siestas, tapas, flamenco dancing, and my photography course. I would also love to watch a few fútbol games and, who knows, maybe even a bullfight.
  • What are some of your interests and hobbies?
    I love to run, so I can’t wait to explore Sevilla’s cobblestone streets in my Nike’s. I also love SEC football, cooking for my family, and drinking coffee at all hours of the day.

Final Thoughts

My experience abroad was not one that I was expecting, in spite of visiting twice before my time abroad. I was able to live in both the city and small villages and there were many distinct differences. For one, Ho Chi Minh City was shockingly liberal. Many individuals were open about their sexuality, even more so in the United States. In the United States, many LBGT’s are discriminated against and to a very shocking degree; however, in Ho Chi Minh City, males in particular were very open about their sexual orientation. In fact, our Vietnamese roommates even told us that approximately half of the males in their college identified themselves as being gay; albeit, if you go into smaller villages, which tends to be a bit more “old-fashioned”, then these things are almost unheard of. This illustrates how unevenly developed culturally many parts of Vietnam can be.

This concept of uneven development is also apparent even within Ho Chi Minh City, but more so through economic standards. Many foreign companies are coming into Vietnam and developing areas at an extremely rapid pace. There are some buildings that extremely tall, luxurious, modern buildings, yet, is located adjacent to a shanty home or restaurants, with rusted tin roofing ready to fall apart, tattered paint on the walls, and just an overall distinct appearance of poverty. While this is apparent in the city, there are many areas in Vietnam that are not even able to make ends meet, namely in small villages and many underprivileged districts in Ho Chi Minh City. Approximately 50% of the workers in Ho Chi Minh City had blue collared jobs, working illegally in careers, such as, street vending and scrap collecting. So, while Vietnam is thriving economically, it has been struggling to create economic equality among its people.

Surprisingly, the rate of development in Vietnam is considered one of the fastest, as it was only in the late 1990’s when Vietnam was allowed to join the international market, after the United States removed the tariff they placed on Vietnam because of the war. Currently, the Vietnamese are attempting to learn new ways to develop their country, such as, how to run large businesses or the importance of education. Although, one of the biggest problems that Vietnam faces and I believe I can speak for most of the Vietnamese population, as they would tell me every day about how corrupt the government officials were, thinking about gaining large profits, in spite of the millions of people suffering.

In one instance, Famosa, a large Taiwanese company, polluted Vietnam’s costs, killing many fish and in turn negatively effecting the Vietnamese population. Many of these fish contained poison as a result of the pollution. Some of the marginalized families that I met ate these fish in spite of knowing that it contained toxins because they depended heavily on fish to help them survive. Outraged by this, many student bloggers were courageous enough to blog about this incident and some even protested in the streets right outside of the building I studied at, only two months before I arrived. However, the Vietnamese government refused to tolerate this. They beat protestors publicly on the streets and dragged them into buses and  were never heard of again as they were probably sent to reeducation camps.

Ironically, before I left, I remember reading articles about Famosa polluting Vietnam’s waters, but the government “called in special analytics, who stated that the death of fish was due to ‘red tide’, and that Famosa was not to blame.” Unfortunately, when did I arrive, I learned that this was actually the government censoring information that they did not want to be leaked, especially to foreigners. This is just one incident, but there are many more similar to this. I personally wished I could have talked about the problems that Vietnam faces; however, due to instances like the one I mentioned, I was advised to refrain from blogging about many of these issues for the sake of my own personal safety.

While there are many things I wished could be changed in Vietnam, I did enjoy my time because I learned so much about the culture, politics, how the Vietnamese think, and of the many issues that endanger the Vietnamese and prevent them from becoming as developed as they would like.  This experience was very rewarding; it opened my mind to many problems that I think we often neglect, while we are in the pursuit of our dreams. Studying abroad gave me the opportunity to learn that and it helped me personally try to overcome fears that I have a tendency to embed in myself. So, no matter where you decide to go or no matter where you went, I hope that everyone enjoys their time abroad.

Home Sweet Home

My final week abroad was a blur. I tried to spend as much time walking around and enjoying Cambridge as I could. The weekend previous I was in London, which is a loud and crazy city filled with tourists and history. I spent most of my time there shopping, which my wardrobe thanks me for, but my bank account does not. I spent a lot of money abroad, I  mean, a lot. More than I expected. I like to shop, I like to eat, I like to spend money, and I have a passion for fashion, baby. So when I’m placed in a city like London, I lacked some impulse control. Stores like Zara, Primark, Topshop, and Selfridges had me ensnared. Speaking of Selfridges, my new bestie Shereen celebrated her birthday in London. I booked us a table for brunch on Selfridges rooftop gardens restaurant and bar. It was beautiful and the food was delicious. It was a lovely start to our time in London.

We ended that evening by renting a private room for her birthday party in a Karaoke bar. Singing in an underground karaoke club with people I had only met three weeks prior, laughing and dancing, and just being loud Americans was one of the most magical parts of my trip. It was something I had never foresaw happening during my time abroad, but now its a precious memory that I’ll never forget.

Besides shopping, eating, and dancing in London, I did engage in the history and arts of the city. I visited the Tate Modern art museum which had the coolest installation by Louise Bourgeois. It was a giant metal spider with fabric bodies hanging from the ceiling. I loved it. I also saw Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew at The Globe Theatre which was AMAZING. The director took an otherwise misogynistic play and turned it into a feminist statement. I loved this as well. London was overall, a great adventure.

Back in Cambridge my fellow classmates and I worked hard on our final papers and in between time spent doing research and writing, I managed to visit Cambridge University’s Botanic Garden. I walked there and back to take in the city and the old magic of it. The botanic garden had gorgeous greenhouses or “glasshouses” as they called them. Wandering around them and the lavender gardens was an afternoon well spent.

On one of my final nights in Cambridge I was walking though the town and just marveling at the old college that stood around me, the old chapels, and stones. I had this strange thought go through my head, “I’m in England.” It was weird because I had been in England for three weeks. I had visited France, and many places all around the UK, and yet I hadn’t felt grounded until that moment, under the stars alone with the old buildings and the quiet town. My time abroad was not easy. I had feelings of homesickness, culture shock, and debt. I had gotten lost too many times to count, dealt with less than ideal living conditions, worked through language barriers, and spent a lot of time with people I had only just met.

But it was all worth it. I visited places I never thought I would go, saw things I never thought I would see. I made connections with people of different cultures than me, and I learned so, so much. Best of all, I made 14 new friends through the UF in Cambridge program. Things could have been easier, sure, but it was all part of the adventure. I’ll always remember Brennan asking me how to order orange juice in French, and shopping for macaroons with Shereen. I’ll remember lying on the steps on the Pantheon and looking up the sky I swear is bluer in Europe. I’ll remember Charlie telling jokes that take fifteen minutes to get to the punch line as we all walked home from dinner, and Ethan posing next to the bones in Catacombs like he was an archeologist at a dig. I’ll remember lying in the grass on the soccer field behind our dorms in Cambridge, talking about waterbeds, what we want to name our kids. I won’t remember every bus ride, every trip through the underground, every time I looked down at my phone’s map and realized I had made the wrong turn, but I’ll remember the people who were with me. Laughing, talking, arguing about politics, sipping tea and taking pictures.

I am beyond grateful for the chance to study abroad and all of the memories I collected and the friends I made. Thank you to everyone who was there by my side, and everyone who was supporting me at home. As I begin my final year of college, I feel ready for anything that will be thrown my way. I mean, if I can survive British cuisine I can survive anything, right?

 

Best,

Shanna.

 

Health System

One thing that I found quite shocking were the hospitals in Vietnam. While foreign hospitals and clinics in the wealthier districts (districts 1,2, and 7) had what I would consider similar to the healthcare practices we find at home, one person per room and doctors spending at least ten minutes diagnosing and treating you, that was not the case in many other districts. I visited one hospital in the Ben Thanh district, which is considered one of the poorest districts. It was so crowded there was no space to even walk and I felt as if I had difficulty breathing.

Patients do not schedule appointments, but take a number and wait for hours until their number is called. As you walk up the stairs there are people sitting on the steps, in the hallways, eating, and passing time by as they wait for their loved ones. The rooms in the hospitals were about the size of a classroom in Turlington, maybe slightly bigger, with 6-8 beds in each room. However, in the pediatrics floor, there were 2 children per bed, 8 beds per room, thus approximately 16 children per room, not including the family members who would often sit on the ground comforting their child. Additionally random solicitors would walk into the hospital selling magazines and food for families who were waiting. I felt as if this type of setting would hinder the well-being of patients, as it would attract more types of viruses or illnesses that are airborne. It was a setting that seemed uncomfortable, as you were talking with a doctor there were many other patients in the room, preventing you from having any privacy. Furthermore doctors only talk to patients for 1-2 minutes at most, due to myriad of patients in desperate need of help. Doctors are afraid that if they spend too much time with one patient, then they dismiss the opportunity to help another.

The health system was not even something I really thought about until I visited the hospital. From my visit and my internship, I also learned that mental health practices are are nonexistent. Apparently, when it comes to what we consider mental health issues, many Vietnamese individuals couple mental health issues with possession by spirits and when studying the Vietnamese language you will find that almost no name for mental disabilities or disorders. Due to the lack of mental health recognition, there is a lack of mental health support. Often times many people who are believed to be born or have gone “crazy” will visit monks and nuns for counseling, a system that has been in place for ages. Since the only phycologists are international practitioners, only the wealthy can afford to visit these places and providing almost no support for the lower class, who have higher rates of mental illnesses.

Furthermore, many mental health disorders and disabilities are not yet recognized in Vietnam. Autism is currently undergoing a long process of being recognized, but there is a lot of controversy because once a disability is recognized, then the person diagnoised will recieve a monthtly or trimonthly stipend from the government. In spite of what some may think, this is a very important issue as many autistic children are discriminated against by their families, peers, teachers, and society. They are denied of needs, such as being apart of special classrooms, and forced to try and cope with what is considered the “norm”.

Combating Homesickness

After a series of mishaps I will admit that I was feeling extremely homesick. It was hard for me to cope with being abroad and missing home because I no longer had the things that I normally took comfort in. Especially, when the country you are studying abroad at has an 11 hour time difference, so it can be a bit difficult to communicate with loved ones. I was fortunate enough to have family members who visited Vietnam, which pulled me out of my slump, but I did find it a bit hard in a foreign country.

First, I believe when you are abroad it is important to find something that you love, for me it was bingsu, a delicious type of Korean dessert, and the friends I made in Vietnam. Those in my program felt the exact same way as I did, but we pulled through by finding new places to visit or restaurants that offered similar comfort food to the ones we find back at home. Also, my program provided me with a Vietnamese roommate, which was nice because she showed me all of the places that she normally visited when feeling down, but simultaneously it was a bit difficult because there are times when I felt that just want to be alone.

Bingsu, one of the greatest deserts ever created by mankind.

So, if you ever find yourself missing home I would highly suggest:

Find a sacred space: Ho Chi Minh City had a very beautiful, serene area called Turtle Lake. It was a very peacefully place in the afternoon, but it was quite busy at night. They also have a walking street outside of the People’s palace, where everyone of all ages just gathers. There are street performers, vendors, and a lot of great restaurants around this area.

Walking Street at sunset.

Calling loved ones: There’s nothing better than being able to call your best friend or family members at home. I feel that when you are in a rut at times, then it’s important to talk to someone who cares about you and I felt that they helped me keep a positive mindset while abroad.

Occupying your mind: This ties together with finding new places to visit or things to do. If you are in a large city abroad, it is probably one of the best times to consume yourself in the culture and all that it has to offer. Many countries offers a series of things that are not provided in the United States. The things that I found the most interesting were the museums, I know this may sound boring, but I guarantee you it was a lot of fun. There were 3D interactive art museums, the Vietnam War Remnants, and also interestingly enough a series of art museums dedicated to combat artists and female soldiers during the Vietnam War.

Exercise if you can: In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, it was very difficult to exercise because we did not have any access to any gyms and it was difficult to run in the city due to the pollution. You could literally feel the dust hit your face as you drive or run around. Either way, when I felt stressed out from studying the workload or just feeling homesick, I just decided to workout in my room, which was a bit strange, but it helped me relieve the stress and I instantly felt better. Also, Vietnam also has a few small parks with exercise equipment. Although, I would highly suggest brining your own disinfectant wipes.

Lastly, Remember the opportunity you have to even be abroad: We are very fortunate to be provided with the opportunity to study abroad. I know all of the Vietnamese roommates that we had have never even left their own city, let alone the country. I definitely can see that each country as their own uniqueness and if given the chance to explore. There were a lot of great things about Vietnam, particularly how cheap everything was and how kind and considerate everyone you meet is. I think I have never been to an area where everyone I met was so friendly and willing to help you.

 

Top 10 Favorite Things I’ve done in Brazil.

Oi Gators! After six wonderful weeks in Brazil, the best way to describe everything I have experienced is to compile a list of my greatest experiences. The most important experience was to learn about Brazilian culture and history and to expand my Portuguese language skills. However, this list shows my favorite trips or places I visited in the state and city of Rio de Janeiro. The list is in no particular order because ALL of these experiences hold great value in my study abroad journey. I hope you find some enjoyment and inspiration to visit Brazil after finishing this list!

10. Escadaria Selarón.

Chilean-born Jorge Selarón created the world’s most beautiful staircase by adding 2,000 pieces of colorful tiles, mirrors and ceramics to the staircase that sat across from his house. The staircase located between the neighborhood of Lapa and Santa Teresa. Selarón’s project was meant as a form of tribute and honor to Brazil, the country that had become his second home. This is why he began by adding green and yellow tiles that represented the Brazilian flag. The staircase is definitely a sight to be seen and explored.

9. Morro da Urca and Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain).

These are certainly two of the most famous morros or mountains in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Making an ascent 396 meters above the city in the cable cars will guarantee a beautiful view of Guanabara Bay, Copacabana, Cristo Redentor and other parts of the city. I decided to go up to watch the sunset and it was a breathtaking sight.

(View from Morro da Urca)

(View from Pão de Açúcar)

8. Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas.

Definitely one of the most relaxing and picturesque spots in the city, I spent a Sunday walking around the 7.2 km walking path around the Lagoa. Walking through, I observed some of the platforms and structures for the future aquatic Olympic Game activities that will take place in the Lagoa. I had lunch at a near restaurant called Via Sete that offered a great selections of meals, especially for two hungry Americans. The service was truly great and attentive.

7. Copacabana and Ipanema Beach.

Of course, I couldn’t make a list without mentioning the beauty and unique experience of spending a day in either Copacabana or Ipanema beach. It is important to notice that these are two different beaches with their own touch of Carioca life. These two are definitely a “must” when expending time in the city.

(Copacabana Beach view from a Kiosk restaurant)

(Ipanema Beach)

6. Museo do Amanhã.

My favorite museums in Rio, Museo do Amanhã explores the reality of global warming, overpopulation, lack of water and many other ecological outcomes of an evolving Earth. The museum structure itself is truly captivating and so are the exhibitions within it. Lines for the museum are out of this world too so if you plan to go inside the museum, I suggest getting there early.

5. Gilberto Gil Musical, Aquele Abraço.

While in Rio, I had the opportunity to attend the Gilberto Gil Musical which serves as a tribute of the 50 years of career of the musician.  Gilberto Gil is one of the most famous Brazilian singer, guitarist, and songwriter. His style is unique thanks to its mixture of rock music, and Brazilian genres such as samba, African music, and reggae. The musical encompases the life and legacy of Gilberto Gil with incredible performances from outstanding actors.

4. Teatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro, Opera Orfeu.

A night inside the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro is a pure dream. Besides watching a beautiful opera for the first time, being inside the exquisite structure was truly a privilege. I truly recommend anyone who visits Rio de Janeiro to spend a night exploring the beauty of a show inside the Theater.

3. Petrópolis.

Better known as the Imperial City, Petrópolis is a municipality in the southern region of Brazil. The city was the summer residence of Brazilian emperors and aristocrats in the 19th century, and was the official capital of the state of Rio de Janeiro during the First Brazilian Republic. The town is truly enchanting and filled with historic memorabilia, museums and palaces. It is the perfect place to visit if you want to learn more about Brazilian history and spend a day off from the busy streets of Copacabana.

(Catedral de Sã0 Pedro de Alcântara contains the tombs of the last Brazilian emperor, Dom Pedro II, and his family)

(Palácio Rio Negro, one of the official residences of the President of Brazil, used mainly as a country retreat)

(Crystal Palace, built for the crown Princess Isabel as a gift from her husband, the Conde d’Eu)

2. Corcovado and Cristo Redentor.

Probably the most iconic and famous of all, Christ the Redeemer on top of the Corcovado mountain was probably one of my most desired experiences in Brazil. The statue is as breathtaking in person as in photos. You also get an amazing view of the city and an encounter with the clouds. Truly an unforgettable experience.

1. Armaçao de Búzios.

Probably the favorite place that I visited during my stay in Brazil. Búzios is a popular getaway from the city and a worldwide touristic site. Located around two hours away from the city of Rio de Janeiro, Búzios is the perfect place for a relaxing weekend. The town has around more than 20 different beaches and a fun night life. I spend the day at the beach and did a boat tour that showed me the entire peninsula. At night, it was great to walk through Rua das Pedras and enjoy the restaurants options that the town has.

 

 

 

It’s Not The End, It’s The Beginning

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This week I leave to go home from Paris. It feels so surreal that the summer is ending and fall semester starts in just a few weeks. I feel as though I arrived in Paris last week and I already have to go. However, this summer has been one of adventures. One of meeting new people, discovering new cultures and growing as a person. I was able to fulfill my dream of living abroad, better yet living in Paris. It was a dream come true. Every day I was able to walk around the beautiful city, revel in it’s summer (not so warm) nights and experience the vibrance of one of the most visited places in the world. The second half of my summer abroad was even better than the first. It was a lot more jam packed with traveling, classes, and exploring Paris. There were so many factors that made July 2016 one to remember. DSC05068

1. Art Class

One of my favorite parts of this summer was taking the Art and Architecture course offered during the program. I was always the type of person who appreciated art, but never understood what most of it meant or what the point of different styles of art were. When I was little I disliked going to art museums because art made no sense, it had no point in my mind. This art class changed everything! I learned how art changed form the renaissance to the modern period and it gave me a whole new understanding and appreciation for a important cultural part of european history.

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2. Traveling

In July I did the most traveling I had done in the entire summer. Most people were tired of staying in Paris over the weekend and we were all itching to finish checking off places off our travel list. I can safely say I made a dent on the list of places I wanted to see this summer. One of the most amazing (and most unexpected) trips I took was to Krakow, Poland. My roommate and I had wanted to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum because we’re both were really interested in World War II history. However, everything went wrong with this trip; our flights were delayed, one of them got cancelled, our hostel almost closed before we got there for the night and to top it all off we found out that Auschwitz was closed the days we would be there. It was safe to say that we thought Krakow would be a bust but it turned out to be one of the most amazing cities and trips. Krakow was a lot more vibrant than I expected. The amount of history wrapped up in the beautiful city made the hassles of getting there worth it, especially St. Mary’s church, the most beautiful church I have ever been to. DSC05300

After Krakow and between 2 exams and a final paper, we took two more trips. We were a little insane but Nice and Amsterdam were great places to also study for finals. Nice was a welcome change in pace and weather. The sun shined all four days we were there and the beaches were beautiful. I was definitely happy to cross that trip off my list. Another of my favorite trips of the summer was the trip to Amsterdam, but this mostly had to do with the people I went with. This bring me to the third reason why summer abroad was stupendous.

IMG_9283 3. Friendships

I can honestly say that I was worried about studying abroad because I knew I was going without knowing anyone. My roommate and I had briefly met in a pre-departure meeting, and hastily decided to be roommates. I was definitely not expecting the friendships I made whilst here. I think that was my absolute favorite part of being here. It was a completely different experience than I would have imagined. My roommate and I became really close, I can safely say I will need her in my life once I go back to Gainesville. While I got along with everyone else in the program, there was always a core group of us who did most things together. Who picnicked at the Eiffel Tower, travelled together and always had late night talks. It was those friendships that got me through the summer, that made all the memories I have even more worthwhile.

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As I think about leaving it makes me really sad that I won’t have all my friend a door, or a floor away but friendship always takes effort and that’s what will happen in Gainesville. I’m not only sad about leaving my friends but also leaving this beautiful city. Walking around today I thought about how much I would miss the little things Paris had to offer, like the themed metro stops and little parks everywhere. As I ate my falafel walking around Le Marais I knew I didn’t want to leave. I had my last meal, bought my last souvenirs but still knew that this was not the end of my life abroad. I made it my goal to come back and live in Europe again at some point in my life. While this good bye is bitter sweet, with a lot more sadness added to the mix, I’m still excited to see my family and friends back home and get back to a different routine.