Compiled by: Sarah Sweeney
This semester, we’re following Endicott students as they embark on transformative study abroad assignments around the globe. Read the first dispatch.
In our second installment, we asked our study abroad students about balancing academic life with the excitement of studying in Europe, what foods they’ve discovered, favorite activities, and making new friends.
Amy Phalen—Agia Paraskevi, Greece
Time is flying! I’m currently studying for midterms and it’s crazy to think I’m almost halfway through my experience here! I am still in love with Greece and all that I’ve experienced. My roommates and I have been traveling most weekends—to the Greek islands of Crete and Santorini and we explored the mainland at Corinth and Nafplion. This weekend we’re headed to Milan, Italy!
My favorite trip so far has been traveling to Santorini. We stayed in Oia, in a traditional blue and white cave house. It is the off-season, so we were some of the only tourists on the small island. Although this meant there were only a few restaurants and shops open, we were able to talk with the locals more and see the views without the crazy crowds of the summer.
To anyone who’s studying abroad in the future: If you want to travel on the weekends, you may want to invest in a good travel backpack that qualifies as a carry-on and will fit everything you will need.
So far, I haven’t experienced much homesickness; with traveling and school, life has been so fast-paced that there’s not much time for it. It’s been very doable to manage classes and travel, as long as you stay on top of your work. Overall, I’m loving my time here in Greece!
Caitlyn Sievers—Prague, Czech Republic
Since the last update, I have gotten much more acclimated in Prague and explored different sections of the city. The Old Town Center is the most “touristy” district, with plenty of shopping and restaurants of all different kinds. So far, this area has been my favorite place to go out to eat because of the variety, and most people working here speak English, which is helpful while I continue working on my Czech.
One of the best Czech foods I've tried so far is called svíčková, which is a beef dish served in a gravy with bread dumplings on the side. Another great food I’ve tried is called trdelník. It is a sugar-coated pastry cone, often filled with custard, fruits, and/or ice cream. These pastries are a really common street food here, and you can find little shops making them from scratch all over the city.
Dealing with homesickness has certainly gotten much easier after the first week or so. I call my family and friends when I know they’re going to be awake and available, and my mom sends me pictures of my cats when I need them!
Taking classes and making friends here has been one of the most interesting parts of living in Prague so far. I’m the only person in my program at Charles University, so I haven’t met many Americans, but I’ve made friends from Italy, Hungary, Georgia, the Netherlands, Germany, and the Czech Republic, just to name a few. It’s been really interesting to have ordinary conversations with people and learn about the little cultural differences I wouldn't have expected.
My class schedule here leaves me with a lot of time to explore. I’m only taking four classes, which meet once per week. Every weekend is a four-day weekend and I’m excited to take advantage of this time to visit other countries. By the time this postcard gets published, I will likely have returned from my first solo trip (Budapest!) and be packing for my birthday weekend in Paris.
Caitlin Ryan—Florence, Italy
While I have only been here for over a week, we have gotten to visit so many fun and special places! We landed in Rome and spent a few days there. My favorite place we visited was by far Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica—it was truly incredible and completely took my breath away. The pictures don’t do it justice.
From Rome, we travelled north to small cities, including Orvieto, Perugia, and Assisi, during the remaining days of our trip. It was fascinating to see the differences between such a big city like Rome and the very small towns like Orvieto. While I liked our time in both places, I prefer the smaller towns because it reminds me of home!
I got into Florence on February 20 and I could not be more excited to be here. We are all settling into our apartment and our classes started this week! I can’t wait to start travelling around Italy and even around Europe.
Kainu’u Gavin—Cork, Ireland
A month has passed since I have been in Ireland, and things have been exciting so far. I have been fortunate enough to travel to other parts of Cork County and be able to learn more about Cork County and what it has to offer. Some of the top destinations in my travels so far have been the Jameson Distillery, Blarney Castle, the Cork Public Museum, and Kilkenny.
Kilkenny was the most interesting. Some of the buildings surprisingly reminded me of some German architecture from one of my previous trips to Europe and how each culture has possibly been able to influence one another. Aside from that, I was able to travel with the ISS (International Students Society) to St. Canice Cathedral and Kilkenny Castle. Out of the two, while St. Canice Cathedral was the shortest, it was the most impressive to learn about its importance to the city. I was able to climb one of the two oldest towers in Ireland and get possibly the greatest view of the city. I hope to travel to Kilkenny again in the near future to explore more of what the Marble County has to offer.
While traveling around Ireland is always fun, there is the academic portion which I must take seriously, as well as homesickness. I would say my homesickness can come up from time-to-time, mainly in terms of some good home cooking. Other than that, I have begun to become acquainted with the local life and begin to take advantage of the opportunities that are being offered to me.
As for friends, I have become acquainted with some of the local Irish students and international students. Many of these international students come from ERASMUS, think of it as the United Nations version of sending students abroad. Through some ISS programs, I have been able to make friends from Germany, France, India, Oman, Malaysia, Japan, and Finland. Through these friendships, we have begun to do some fun activities such as going out to the pubs, attend local sporting events, and potentially play some soccer, basketball, and football.
I still need to find time to schedule mini trips to other nations in Europe I would love to visit. The top countries on my list so far are Switzerland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, France, England, Luxembourg, and possibly Malta. Still, I have plenty of time to get to these things within due time. Till next time.
Angela Battiata—Madrid, Spain
¡Saludos desde Madrid! I can’t believe that it is already two months abroad. Time is flying by too quickly and it really needs to slow down! Life here in Madrid has been amazing. The sun has been shining and the weather has been incredible … it truly feels like spring at the moment. I have been taking advantage of the sunshine and have been to the park on multiple occasions.
Personally, I feel right at home in Madrid and would willingly stay here for the rest of my life. On that note, you can probably pick up that homesickness is nonexistent to me. I have made the effort to integrate and immerse myself in the Spanish culture to the point where I feel like I belong in Madrid and am no longer a tourist.
At school I have made a really great group of friends, which mostly consists of French students, and enjoy spending my weekends with them. At CIS, I am a part of a language exchange program and I teach a student Spanish while they teach me French. I have even started a small book club at CIS as well! I am also the RA in Madrid, so that has given me the opportunity to connect with everyone on the trip.
A few weeks ago, we had an overnight excursion to Valencia, the third biggest city in Spain, and were able to explore the city. We stayed at an amazing hotel where we were serenaded by a traditional Valencian band, visited old cathedrals, shopped at an amazing food market, went to an aquarium, and had paella by the water. It was truly a divine weekend!
A small group of us took our first trip and went to Portugal for the weekend where we stayed in Lisbon and Porto. The whole stay was wonderful and we stayed in a beautiful neighborhood where the nightlife was incredible. I cannot mention Portugal without bringing up the delicious cuisine the country had to offer. I fell in love with pastel de nata, a traditional Portuguese pastry, and bacalhau, which is cod. We explored the local areas of Lisbon through a walking tour and spontaneously took a tuk-tuk around the city. Our trip to Portugal is definitely the highlight of this month. Where to next ... Italy, Greece, or France?