When traveling abroad, or anywhere really, there’s jitters. Feelings of excitement, wonder, nervousness, and tons of anticipation. Once there’s an urge to travel, the feeling is hard to get rid of. The St. John’s study abroad program is filled with exploration, academics, and memories. I spoke to three students: Sara Bonasia, Jason Sutton, and Kyla Porter, all who traveled for a semester and stayed at the international St. John’s campuses. According to the three of them, their abroad experiences were life-changing, educational, and eye-opening.
Sightseeing, meeting new people, trying new foods, and learning new material — these are all packed into the experience of a study abroad trip. Learning and growing changes you, and the proof is in the pudding.
“Traveling has made me much more independent. It pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and interact with strangers,” Bonasia said. “Whether it was public transportation within the area or outside the city, it positively impacted my capacity to confidently be on my own.”
Porter agrees, adding that, “It puts into perspective how similar yet different [the] places I visited are,” Sutton also added, “Seeing different cultures has opened my mind to trying new things.”
Homesickness is natural, but so is wanderlust. After traveling for so long and being faced with the opportunity to see so much, I asked about how they feel being back on campus and settling in back home. Sutton and Porter were both excited to come back and see everybody they missed, but both felt feelings of nostalgia when looking at pictures and reminiscing on the feeling of being there.
“It surprisingly feels good to be back on campus, especially at the beginning of the semester. I’ve become much more laid back and relaxed compared to my other semesters in Queens,” Bonasia said of being back on campus. “It took a while to adjust back to the American lifestyle and the withdrawals didn’t start until around now, midterms week.”
It’s safe to say that a little taste of the European lifestyle changes people for the better and slows everyone down at a pace they need to for a while.
On weekends, students were able to travel to different cities, countries, sights, all for relatively low prices. I was curious about their favorite destinations and favorite foods, because your eyes and your taste buds are going to remember the most. Bonasia said her favorite destination was Venice. She had been waiting to go her whole life, and got to go to Carnevale, one of the biggest festivals in Italy. She was also able to reunite with her family in Bari again after 4 years and it felt like home again for her. Her favorite food when traveling was bottarga, a popular pasta dish in Southern Italy. She ate lots of it when she visited her family on an island called Ponza, where she goes every summer.
Porter’s favorite destination was Morocco, where she visited mountains and ate authentic Moroccan food. Her favorite food abroad was a Greek restaurant called Grekos, right near the St. John’s Rome campus. “The owners are from Greece and they had amazing gyros,” she noted.
Sutton’s favorite destination was Prague, where his friends from home came to see him. His favorite food was a tough choice: “That’s hard. Probably spaghetti carbonara.” Good choice.
Sehnsucht (n)., a German word that translates to “a wistful longing and yearning in the heart for travels that have been and the travels to come.” It’s fascinating to see the personal and educational change within a student from pre-trip to post-trip, and all the souvenir memories they bring back to New York City.