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If You Do One Thing, Study Abroad

Most of us need both our hands and feet to count all the things we wish we could change at St. John’s. Whether it’s WiFi, sign-in policies, or the unavoidable shudder from stepping foot into Marillac, we all have our personal opinions concerning what needs to be reformed on campus.

But you know what? I want to dedicate this column – my first as Managing Editor – to something at St. John’s that I think is absolutely incredible – something that the Cunniff-Valente regime (aka Torch Editorial Board XC), discussed in small detail in a past issue of the Torch: the University’s study abroad program.

If you haven’t studied abroad, prepare for me to convince you to make the best decision of your life. If you have, pop a squat on the most comfortable couch you own, pour a glass of that five euro bottle of wine you bought from Carrefour (only if you’re 21, of course!) and let nostalgia take over.

If you study abroad through St. John’s during the fall or spring semesters, you have three choices: Discover France – an entire semester in Paris, Discover Italy – an entire semester in Rome, Discover Spain – an entire semester in Seville, or Discover the World (DTW for short) – five weeks in each of the above cities.

I chose to enroll into the Discover France program for the Spring 2012 semester. It was the most incredibly impactful decision I ever made. I mean that from the absolute depths of my heart.

For those of you reading who are contemplating whether or not to study abroad, play close attention to what I’m about to articulate.

An average day in Paris for me was as followed: I wake up around 7:30 a.m. for class (interestingly enough, it was easier waking up for early classes there than it is here), go downstairs to breakfast where I have coffee out of a bowl because coffee mugs are too mainstream for Paris, a fresh baguette with apricot spread and some cereal. After I finish my breakfast, I head to class. After class, the day is all mine. And this fact, ladies and gentleman, is the beauty of studying abroad.

You are allotted a significant portion of each day to discover whatever city you’re in, on your own terms. There are excursions to prominent monuments, museums, etc, but you aren’t limited to them.

Think of it this way: you’re handed a blank slate and a marker. The slate is your European experience, while the marker is you. You have the power to craft your experience abroad in whatever manner you choose. What can be more beautiful than that?

So, since I love soccer more than my  cat loves tuna, I spent a majority of my days in Paris on a futsal court (futsal is soccer on a hard surface, for all of my non-footballing brethren) directly in front of the Eiffel Tower, playing the game that makes my heart sing.

But one of the most rewarding aspects about studying abroad is that you expand your horizons every time you wake up. I survived – actually, thrived, in a foreign country for three and half months on my own. That deserves a pat on the back, right?

And I guess it’s a bonus that I learned of my strong fondness for escargot, my unhealthy obsession for crepes and my knack for adopting insults into my French vernacular.

For those of you who are still contemplating whether or not to make that trek across the Atlantic, I wanted to give you a list of pros and cons to help you with your decision. But after a great deal of brainstorming, I realized that there’s no point.

Ask one of your friends that studied abroad and ask them what they thought of their experience. If you get even one person that tells you that it wasn’t one of the best decisions they ever made, I’ll be shocked.

Do yourself a favor; get lost in Paris or go on a gelato binging spree in Rome. And if that get’s you tired, you can take a siesta in Seville.

But be sure not to limit yourself to just Paris or Rome or Seville. Flight fares in Europe is affordable – even for a college student’s budget.

Take a weekend trip to London and discover the best fish and chips the UK has to offer. Or how about trekking down south to Morocco to ride a camel and spend the night in the Sahara? Or maybe you’re feeling adventurous and want to head towards the Swiss Alps. The opportunities are endless.

But above anything else, studying abroad gave me two things: a lifetime of memories and couple of friendships that will last forever.
So, when are you booking your ticket?

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