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Opinion

Study Abroad: Europe the experience of a lifetime

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December 13, 2007

Flipping through the worn pages of a four month Euro-trip journal, some with metro tickets glued memorably and some stained with peach from a mishap in the satchel from the beginning of the semester, the memories make my mind race with nostalgia. Excerpts not only remind me of that time, but the feeling and the completely different state of mind I had back then.

Realistically, this semester abroad may not have been the best financial decision of my life, but it was by far the best learning and mind-blowing experience I could have ever dreamed of.

I honestly learned more in the past few months than I could have learned in a classroom. Language has been a challenge, but the most rewarding challenge thus far. Now I can say “Thank you” in seven different tongues.

As a reminder, Semester Abroad: Europe consists of a group of students that spend a week in Paris together at the beginning of the semester to get a feel of Europe before independently studying in a city of their choice for two months. After a three day mid-semester meeting in Italy, we then again go out independently to travel Europe for six weeks. I could go on to tell how much I have grown mentally by building confidence and an open mind for all things in the world, but it goes without saying.

I would much rather explain how amazing it is that someone of my age and economic status has the opportunity to have such a learning experience. Semester Abroad: Europe is a rare study abroad program, and UWRF is most fortunate to be the host. Every person I have met in Europe has continued to be impressed and somewhat dumfounded at the idea of the program. Yes, we are undergraduates. No, I am not rich. Yes, I am currently enrolled in a university. Yes, I am a lone woman traveler.

Of course I recommend this program to students. It gives you the chance to do an independent project on anything that interests you whilst receiving credit. Also available is the chance to meet a network of people internationally.

Not many backpackers are actually simultaneously students. I had the chance to get to know a big city quite well. Essentially, we had the chance to create a project that will most likely be the highlight of our academic careers.

One day, at a hostel in Munich, I found a map of the world plastered on the wall, complete with pinpoints of travelers’ home cities. It was fun for me to stare at and locate my home, St. Paul and my dad, from Quezon City. Ben is in Nicaragua. Anna in Adelaide. Joel in New York. I am in Germany.

I couldn’t find the words to describe the way I felt then. The way I have been feeling the past three months, the past six months and especially the past week. I felt my eyes swelling up and a silly smile that remains difficult to hide. Then it came to me—so simple—the words to describe the feeling. The world makes me happy.

-Teresa is a journalism major and a geography minor. She is enrolled in the Semester Abroad: Europe program and has done research on the River Thames in London. She is currently backpacking independently across Europe.

Teresa Aviles is a student at UW-River Falls.