Compiled by: Sarah Sweeney
Agia Paraskevi, Cork, Madrid, Prague, Florence. This semester, we’re following Endicott students as they embark on transformative study abroad assignments around the globe.
For this first installment, we asked five students to reflect on their first impressions of their host countries—what surprised them and how they’re weathering homesickness. We also asked them about packing, from the items they can’t leave behind to the items they unfortunately did.
Each month, they’ll send a dispatch about their travels, the friends they’re meeting, the foods they’re eating, and all the discoveries they’re making along the way.
Amy Phalen—Agia Paraskevi, Greece
I arrived to Agia Paraskevi on January 3, so I’ve had time to settle into my new environment. I’m staying in an apartment-style dorm, only a 30-minute metro ride from Athens. So far, I would say that I’m definitely in my honeymoon phase! I’ve visited the Acropolis, enjoyed authentic spanakopita, and added kalimera (good morning) to my vocabulary.
I followed the bare minimum style of packing for this trip, but I wish I’d brought some extra comfort items—a blanket from home, decorations and pictures, maybe a favorite nail polish. Overall, I do believe it’s better to pack light, yet these are nice to have to remind you of home!
I was surprised by a few things here in Greece. I didn’t realize how different the daily activities of my life would be, like grocery shopping with food labels in a different language and the inability to order an “iced coffee, regular.” But now I drizzle honey on top of everything and enjoy a Greek coffee in the morning. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my adventure!
Caitlyn Sievers—Prague, Czech Republic
I arrived in Prague on January 22 and was immediately struck by the liveliness of the city— between all the people walking around and the intermingling car and tram traffic, there is so much to look at.
I’m currently in my orientation, most of which has been centered around learning about Czech history. It is fascinating to be in a place that has endured so much change and upheaval over the course of many centuries, and to learn about this history from a Central European perspective. Next week, I will begin my intensive language course, which will hopefully help me settle into the culture of the city.
I tried to only bring the essentials with me: basic clothing, medicine, my electronics, and adapters, etc. Knowing that I’d want to explore the outdoors and mountain ranges that surround the Czech Republic, I had to bring my hiking boots with me. Something that I didn’t bring but I wish I did is a snack or two from the U.S. The food here is great, but it would be nice to have some sort of comfort food while I acclimate to my new city.
Surprisingly, I’m the only person in my particular program at Charles University. I’ve felt a little homesick, especially being the only person going through my orientation. However, it has gotten easier every day as I get more comfortable with the public transportation and the stores around my apartment. It’s nice being able to go wherever I want in the afternoons, and Prague feels very safe so I don’t mind exploring on my own for now.
Caitlin Ryan—Florence, Italy
Although I have not left yet, by the time you read my next update I’ll be in Florence! I’m still so excited because the idea of studying abroad is finally becoming a reality. I’ve started to get things organized and packed into my suitcases. I can’t go anywhere without packing cubes, which will be so useful because we’re only allowed to bring one carry-on, one large suitcase, and a backpack.
Studying abroad in Florence is special for many reasons, but our first experience as a group will be a week of traveling and sightseeing along the route from Rome to Florence. Some of the fabulous places we’re visiting include the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Sistine Chapel. I can’t wait to take you on my journey while studying in Florence!
Kainu’u Gavin—Cork, Ireland
It’s been quite a while since I’ve been in Ireland. So, in terms of second impressions, Ireland is still bountiful with its green fields, while Cork is still as busy as before. The only thing that’s really changed has been the weather being cloudier than during my last visit in August 2021.
This led me to think about what I had packed—at first, this mainly consisted of shirts, shorts,
sweatpants, and some rain gear. It may have been a good thing that I brought less because I was able to purchase some much-needed items to help me get through my first two weeks in Ireland.
There is always the case of being homesick. I will contemplate it at times. I mainly miss being around family, friends, the weather, and my grandmother’s cooking and baking. However, I have been able to bring it with me by being able to cook some of her recipes. It will take some time to get used to, but I believe I can overcome these obstacles and any others that come my way. More importantly, I’d like to enjoy myself in Ireland by learning more about my family history, visiting family across the pond, and going to another country I’ve never been to. Still a lot of things I have to get to with due time.
Angela Battiata—Madrid, Spain
So… I will definitely be visiting Madrid again. It has been only a little over two weeks since I arrived in Madrid and I’m already in love with everything here, from the city views, culture, food, the metro, and even strangers on the street. And being fluent in Spanish has been a tremendous advantage to integrating myself with the locals!
Through our sister school, CIS University, we’ve gone on three excursions since arriving in Madrid. We visited two cities, Segovia and Toledo, each very unique in their own ways, and we also explored the center of Madrid. Making friends has been very easy as well, as everyone is extremely friendly. My living space houses a variety of international students who attend different schools in Madrid, and it’s always a breath of fresh air when I meet someone new in the kitchen and we spontaneously end up having dinner together.
The group of students that came on this trip are all amazing and I’m so grateful to be spending the next few months with them. It’s crazy to think that I’ve never seen some of the students here with me back on the Endicott campus! I came to study abroad in Madrid with an open mind and no expectations and that was the best decision I made!