Explore the world, write your own story

Diana Colapietro, Photo Editor

The sun was shining on a 94 degree day in Rome, Italy as the students exited the airplane. It

was Aug. 19, and the Discover the World squad just landed in the first country of their European

journey. They wiped the sweat from their brows, gathered their luggage and met the St. John’s

representatives to embark on a 40 minute bus ride to campus.

Studying abroad is one of the most life changing experiences in which a student may partake.

It teaches independence, patience, time management and budgeting skills—and these are

some of the many practical abilities that supplements the lessons a person can learn from various

cultures.

After spending five weeks in each city, Rome, Seville and Paris, I now have a deeper

understanding of my responsibility as a global citizen to raise awareness and appreciation for

different cultures.

My first week in Rome consisted of orientation, exploring the neighborhood and indulging in

gelato, the most delicious frozen treat in the entire world. Nothing can be compared to a creamy

Nutella gelato in a freshly baked sugar cone with homemade whipped cream on a hot, summer

day.

As the DTW students practiced their Italian speaking skills at local businesses, started

classes and settled into their “when in Rome” routine, they began to consider potential trips.

Planning trips is one of the most stressful, yet exciting aspects of studying abroad. The

person must not only pick the most convenient time to go away, but also make sure they get on a

tour before it fills up. On top of that, the person must always verify if they have enough funds for

transportation, food and trinkets and souvenirs. It is challenging to plan with other people who

have their own goals and budgets to manage.

This is how you learn patience, a universal virtue that can also be a critical skill in any country.

By the end of the first five weeks, the St. John’s students were professionals at navigating

through awkward language barrier situations and had tried every single flavor at the local

gelateria. It was time to pack up and move onto the next destination: Seville, Spain.

Seville is different from Rome and Paris because it is relatively rural. The dirt paths to go in

and out of the hostel where students live greatly contrasts with the concrete, urban atmosphere

seen in the other two cities.

However, different does not necessarily mean better or worse. For instance, instead of

savoring gelato, the students were trying churros with chocolate syrup. There is a difference

between the two treats and, depending on your personal preference, one may be better than the

other. In my opinion, gelato is the winner.

The best—and worst—aspect of Spanish culture is the siesta, also known as the nap in the

middle of the day. Coming from bustling New York City, it is not easy to transition to a slow-paced

culture in which businesses close for a few hours in the middle of each day.

But if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Once you embrace the siesta and gives it a chance, it is truly a beautiful tradition. My only

advice is to try not to get too accustomed to it as readjusting to your normal schedule may be

challenging (and disappointing).

While in Spain, my friends and I spontaneously decided to book a trip to Lagos for a weekend.

Although I did not know exactly what to expect, I was so excited to check it out and be

surprised, and that is the beauty of studying abroad. During our time in Lagos, my friends and I

discovered beautiful rock formations on an afternoon boat ride, explored the city center and spent

our last day kayaking. Lagos is truly extraordinary.

The next and final stop of the Discover the World journey was Paris. Actress Audrey Hepburn

couldn’t have been more accurate when she said, “Paris is always a good idea.”

After the warm, humid temperatures of both Rome and Seville, Paris was a welcome climate

change from summer to crisp, autumn weather. Upon seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle for the first

time at night from the airplane, I immediately recognized something spectacular about the city

that I still cannot quite explain.

There is a magical energy in Paris that is unlike anything I have ever experienced. In addition

to admiring artwork showcased in museums like the Louvre and D’Orsay, walking along the Seine

River became my favorite pastime. I will never forget the feeling of tranquility while slowly strolling

through the leaves on the cobblestone, during the day and night.

For most people, studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is known that college is

a great time for you to find yourself. I didn’t just learn about myself, but also about my

relationships with close friends and strangers I met throughout my journey.

When you are familiar with the way in which people around the world live, you are then able to

carry what you learn back to your home. You are able to change your life and expand your

personal horizons.

Saint Augustine once said: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a

page.”

Never stop reading.