There is no question that applying to college is one of the most stressful processes a high school student will face. As a senior, I absolutely could not make up my mind about where I wanted to spend the next four years of my life. While looking over my options, and weighing the pros and cons (while high-key having a mental breakdown), there was one thing I knew for sure: I wanted to spend a semester studying abroad.
When I heard about the amazing study abroad program Marist had to offer, I was instantly sold. At Marist College, the opportunities for studying abroad are endless. With programs available on six different continents for numerous majors and minors, no wonder why over 50% of Marist students choose to study abroad during their college career.
Experiencing programs in three different countries, Bernadette in Spain, Kaitlyn in Austria, and Katherine in Italy share their amazing Marist abroad experiences that changed their lives forever.
Bernadette: Madrid, Spain
“Let’s just say that studying abroad teaches you a whole lot about yourself, you are living in the best of times and these times are coming at you in rapid fire. You are breathing in and out an experience you formulate each and every day. I look back on the past two months and a half in Madrid, Spain and think of how far I’ve come–literally and figuratively. 3,583 miles. How’s that for a semester away from Marist?
I came abroad with the mindset of wanting to see everything, go everywhere, and above all, try new things. The thirst for adventure, for that courage in the name of exploration never curbed my wandering spirit. I planned trips and booked flights nonstop. I went to Germany, Morocco, Italy, and all the four corners of Spain. While I’ve loved every second of my trip, I realized about a month into my semester something that shocked me. I lived in Madrid, but was so busy getting away every weekend to see other places that I had forgotten to explore my city. I wanted to improve my Spanish, but sometimes only found myself practicing in the classroom. I needed to be present in my place and not so ready to get away. I needed to be in Madrid. So that’s what I did.
Sometimes making the most of your abroad experience isn’t necessarily about knowing you’ve been here or there or everywhere. It’s about making the place you chose to study in your home. After all, being away from home is hard. You miss family, friends, and routines. You are forced to adapt seemingly overnight. But you have to take things with a slow beat. For me, it’s about spending time with the kids in my program, making it home to eat dinner every night with my host mom, riding horses every week in the suburbs of Madrid, and practicing and improving my Spanish (to the best of my ability).
You don’t really know what you are made of until you are forced to put yourself out there, and that what being abroad has done for me, and for that, I am thankful.”
Kaitlyn: Vienna, Austria
“I decided to study abroad in Vienna, Austria for a few reasons. Vienna was rated the ‘Most Livable City in Europe’ seven years in a row. I am also a musician and psychology major, and Vienna is a major city for both. One of my favorite moments from my semester abroad, as crazy as it sounds, was when I went to a real Viennese ball and met Austria’s first astronaut, Franz Viehbock. We ended up at the same table and he told me the story of how he went into space for the first time, and how he climbed Mt. Everest. One of my favorite excursions was to Switzerland, which is my favorite country (other than Austria). I went there by myself for spring break, and ate an entire pot of cheese fondue myself. However, between the food, the people, and the rich culture, Vienna will always be my favorite city.”
Katherine: Florence, Italy
“During the spring 2015 semester I was lucky enough to study abroad in Florence, Italy. Studying abroad was never an experience that I anticipated when beginning my journey at Marist College. Instead, it was a last minute decision that turned out to be the best decision I ever made. I had never traveled out of the country before, let alone traveled without my family, so when I stepped onto the plane one snowy morning in January I had no idea what to expect. How would I combat the pangs of homesickness? How would I navigate in a country where I didn’t speak the language? As it turns out, homesickness is easily remedied with enormous amounts of gelato and long walks by the Arno River. And “navigating” sometimes means getting lost and ending up in a new part of the city that you never knew existed.
In my four months abroad I was able to travel to France, Ireland, Switzerland, Monaco, the Czech Republic, and all over Italy. When someone asks me what my favorite country was, I immediately begin to experience heart palpitations. How could someone expect me to pick just one favorite country? Every country that I visited possessed its own flavor and nuances. It’s like comparing apples with oranges. I suppose that each city that I visited was my favorite in some respect, although my trip to Paris will always hold a special spot in my heart. The Eiffel Tower is a landmark that has been romanticized and glorified since I was a child; I looked at it in picture books, saw it in movies, and drew it in art class. I never imagined that seeing it for the first time would be so magical. But there I was, breathless in the cold March air, as I watched a piece of metal sparkle against the black sky. That moment in time will forever be memorialized in my mind, as a reminder to seek out the magical and euphoric moments in life and never look back.
As a concluding thought, if you have the opportunity to study abroad and you are conflicted, you should take the risk and go. Being so far removed from the comfortable and predictable elements of your home campus will enrich you in a multitude of ways; you will learn self-reliance, independence, courage, and spontaneity. It will change your perspective, grant you with a newfound humility and reverence for other cultures, and expand your educational and creative horizons. My memory paints Florence as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The city, and its people, has imparted so much wisdom on me. No matter where I go in life, I will always call the apartment I shared in Florence home.”
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