The Plunge Overseas

3 Students Give Us Tall Tales & Tidbits On What to Expect When Studying Abroad

Before I went to college, people would always tell me that when it comes to studying abroad, DO IT. I either encountered people who said they regretted never taking the chance to do so, or was given a full recount of wildly entertaining stories from time spent as a foreigner.

Here at Fordham, studying abroad is definitely encouraged, and many students start planning their travels and applying to specific programs months in advance. Once a student is able to get past the tumultuous paperwork and obtain all of the necessary travel documents (“I have to apply for a visa?”) the experience of going abroad proves to be nothing short of extraordinary.

Below, the Ram Realm showcases three students who have either already gone or are currently abroad. We asked them to share some of their most memorable experiences, best pieces of advice, and juicy tidbits on what is to come for those of us about to take the plunge overseas.

 

Will Speros, Fordham Junior, Currently studying abroad in London, England.

1395422_10151983393282813_2140954382_n

What was your best experience that you had abroad?

This feels so impossible to answer. There were so many things I did that were unforgettable but I think the best part of this whole experience was how it has changed me. I was in such a bad place in my life when I began this trip, but as time has gone on, I found myself to have changed for the better. I’m happier, putting more effort into my relationships, and actually looking forward to being back home. Being able to say I’m a better person for having gone abroad is what has been the best part for me.

What is one negative aspect about going abroad that you didn’t expect?

The uncertainty behind credits and things like that is no fun and Fordham is unsurprisingly not super helpful with it.

What are common things (in the US) that are surprisingly hard to find/not available abroad?

I can’t speak for every country in Europe, but at least in the UK, I can’t get my Dunkin Donuts coffee, tropical citrus vitamin water, or Old Spice. These things are all staples of my life and I have had absolutely no luck obtaining them here.

10549_10152393425877565_2052909154_nWho is the most interesting person you met abroad/their life story, etc.?

My Visual Journalism professor at City University has never failed to impress me with her stories and expertise. She recently published a photo book highlighting ritualistic ceremonies unique to the United Kingdom and her work inspired the art decoration for the recent West End production of “As You Like It.” She has taken us to very exclusive gallery shows, and even invited us all out to a jazz gig with her (I was unfortunately unable to attend).

What is the best “hidden gem” you found abroad, or an experience you found that was not highly advertised?

Liberal Arts had to take an overnight trip to Wales for class, and it ended up being a place that everyone ended up really enjoying. We got to explore two historic castles that are open to the public and see some really cool sights. Additionally, their nightlife was out of this world. A Tuesday night out in Wales was equivalent to Saturday night in London. Tintern Abbey is an absolute must if you find yourself near Cardiff.

558048_10152393426707565_2141363181_nHow is Europe similar/different from NYC?

My favorite difference is how outgoing strangers seem to be. Literally every time I have gone out, I have found myself in a conversation with a total stranger. It’s nice to hear people’s stories and just have some company. This is something I feel like you really can’t do in New York.

Was there an obvious change of pace living abroad compared to living in NYC?

The workload abroad is pretty light, so the pacing is sort of what you make it. The schedule encourages exploration and things like that. London’s nightlife is not like New York’s in the sense that most places close at one in the morning.

1175743_10152398585537565_435329170_nIf you had to give one piece of advice to students traveling abroad in the future, what would it be?

The best advice I got is what I would pass on: go broke. Don’t stress about finances. You’ll go crazy if you do. I know I will come back to Europe one day, but I will never have the opportunity again to travel this freely while I’m young enough to enjoy certain things. Don’t let money hold you back from a once in a lifetime experience.

 

Nicole Inserra, Fordham Senior, Studied abroad last semester in Cape Town, South Africa.

1231243_10152283291949782_896710804_n

What was your best experience that you had abroad?

I would have to say experiencing a new culture and a new country that I had never been to before.  Living in a place so different than my home and learning their different customs was amazing.

What is one negative aspect about going abroad that you didn’t expect?

People don’t necessarily think about how long you are gone and it was very long! I missed my family more than I ever expected to.

What are common things (in the US) that are surprisingly hard to find/not available abroad?

Wifi, internet access, and television access. Everything was pay as you go and it was always a slow connection, which was sometimes frustrating.

488371_4961782876951_261695693_nWho is the most interesting person you met abroad/their life story, etc.?

My friend Alex, who lives in South Africa and is a native South African. Hearing about her upbringing and her life and how different it was from my own was awesome.

What is the best “hidden gem” you found abroad, or an experience you found that was not highly advertised?

All of the little cafes around town were great. I loved to people watch and just observe whatever was going on around me.

525320_4961760516392_1945316957_nHow is South Africa similar/different from NYC?

South Africa is not nearly as built up as New York City, but it’s still very urban. The people there are much more relaxed versus people here who are constantly running around. It’s also right on the beach, which was amazing!

Was there an obvious change of pace living abroad compared to living in NYC?

Yes, it was a much slower pace. People in South Africa take things as they come and don’t rush.  They go with the flow and are a very relaxed people.

521748_4961752196184_36623688_n

If you had to give one piece of advice to students traveling abroad in the future, what would it be?

Be open minded always!

 

Tessa van Bergen, Fordham Junior, Currently studying abroad in Rome, Italy. 

1175639_10153203569350394_51160953_n

What was your best experience that you had abroad?

The ability to so easily travel is unreal. Some of my trips were pre planned at the beginning of the semester but some of them were planned the week before. Someone would say something like “Zurich seems cool and flights are cheap… let’s go!” and we’d do it. It’s insane how easy and cheap it is to do. The best part is that in 14 days you could have been in 3 countries. It’s awesome. Also the food in Rome is incomparable to anywhere I’ve ever been and I am so spoiled with such fresh produce, vegetables, and meat. And gelato, I just can’t get enough of it.

What is one negative aspect about going abroad that you didn’t expect?

No one can really prepare you for the culture shock. I thought growing up in a major city (San Francisco) and going to college in one would prepare me enough for moving abroad, but it’s so foreign and Rome out of all the cities I visited in Europe is the least Americanized. I went to Rome not knowing any Italian at all and at first that was traumatic because I couldn’t communicate with anyone. Just buying a panini was a 10-minute ordeal. The customs in every city are extremely different and I can only speak for Rome, and Italy as a whole really. There are close to no similarities to the U.S. in terms of how they dress, knowing what time of day to order a cappuccino and what time of day to order an espresso, what times are appropriate for every meal, how many courses you order at dinner, knowing that it’s customary (and cheaper) to order the restaurant house wine at dinner, and the list goes on. There were far more adjustments I had to make than I expected.

 What are common things (in the US) that are surprisingly hard to find/not available abroad?

In Rome, there wasn’t anything I found similar to the U.S. I can only think of McDonalds and Burger King, which weren’t even allowed in Italy until very recently.  In addition to those food chains, we have stores that exist on both continents most of which are European anyway (i.e. Zara, Brandy Melville, H&M, etc.). Even things like a regular cup of coffee don’t exist here and people only drink espresso. At first it was really frustrating, but I’ve actually grown to love living in a place so different than home.

554090_10153203570875394_310799738_nWho is the most interesting person you met abroad/their life story, etc.?

On my birthday my mom and I went on a tour of the Vatican Museum with a guide named Giovanna. We actually ended up keeping in touch with her and I’ve been on multiple tours with her since; to lunch, and even on her vespa! She really took me under her wing and taught me how to truly act Roman because she’s lived there her whole life. She’s been a sort of mentor for me here and I’ve learned so much about Roman and Italian culture. All my professors are extremely fascinating and inspiring as well because they’ve come from all over the world. They are all so well traveled and really encourage us to explore the world around us.

What is the best “hidden gem” you found abroad, or an experience you found that was not highly advertised?

This is so bizarre, but there are thousands of fountains all over Rome with clean and cold running water that you can drink out of. I am weirdly obsessed with the fact that everyone has access to clean water all over the city. But on another note, this isn’t really a hidden gem, it’s more of an underappreciated custom. When people are finished eating dinner at a restaurant, the waiter doesn’t bring the check until you ask for it. It’s nice because if you’re in a hurry it comes right away (but Romans are never in a hurry), and if you want to sit and drink wine and keep talking with friends you’re allowed to do so as long as you want. It’s awesome that nothing is rushed and going out to dinner emphasizes spending time with family and friends and really enjoying the food and wine (which is, of course, beyond amazing).

599673_10153203571200394_7272563_nHow is Europe similar/different from NYC?

Of all the cities I traveled to, I found seldom similarities. New York is so metropolitan and even more urbanized cities in Europe don’t relate. Mostly physically because of the history of European cities. Rome only has two metro lines and every time they try to build a third underground line they run into ruins and have to reroute the line. Every single thing is historic and has significance. Spectacular monuments like the Trevi Fountain were built for no particular reason and you just don’t find monuments like that in New York or anywhere in the U.S. really.

Was there an obvious change of pace living abroad compared to living in NYC?

It depends on the city. Rome is pretty much the opposite pace of New York City. People walk slower, the service is slower, the concept of a line doesn’t exist, and the wifi barely works. New York feels a million times more advanced than Rome, but I loved living this way. Another big thing is that people also go grocery shopping every day because food goes bad faster since it doesn’t have preservatives. It’s part of the daily routine to go to the local market for whatever you need each day and it’s so cheap. To give you an idea, a liter of wine is 2 euros and a ¼ a kilo of meat is 3 euros. It’s unreal. It took some time to adjust to adding this into my day-to-day life, but now I can’t imagine eating any other way. I just don’t feel as anxious about everything and there’s more leisurely time.

1374152_10153233039620394_1721762980_nIf you had to give one piece of advice to students traveling abroad in the future, what would it be?

GET EXCITED. Get a phrase book. Buy a Lonely Planet travel guide for your city of choice. Make a budget and really stick to it. Download viber and whatsapp pre departure. Make sure you have a travel backpack that fits Ryan Air requirements. Copy all your documents. Never exchange money in an airport. And pack light!

 

*It’s safe to say I’m already packing my bags*

%d bloggers like this: