One of my main motivations for studying abroad was that I wanted to go on weekend trips every week and see the world. Traveling was something that was very important to me, but I wanted my trips to be meaningful. I wanted to learn more about the places I was visiting and I didn’t want to treat it as a vacation. In every place that I’ve traveled to, I made sure to learn about the history of the country I was visiting by going on free walking tours of the city or visiting museums.
I met a girl who studied in Barcelona on my recent weekend trip to Nice. And she was telling me about the politics in Spain and I told her that when I was there, I witnessed a protest. I told her how I remembered asking my friend who studies in Spain what the protest was about and she explained to me that they were protesting for Catalan independence. She told me that Spain was divided in different regions and I remember being surprised when I heard that; I just saw Spain as Spain, one country. I told her I went on a walking tour the next day and I learned more about the different regions and some of Spain’s history. We both agreed that we didn’t know much about Spain’s politics until we came to Europe.
In Italy, I was in a room with a group of girls and we sat around discussing the politics in the countries that we’re studying in. One of the girls was studying in Florence and said that her father let her study abroad there because he believed “nothing was going on in Italy.” She then proceeded to tell us that was further from the truth. An Italian boy in my class told me more the current political situation in Italy and again, I was surprised. It was definitely not what I expected.
I don’t claim to be an expert on the politics of every one of these countries, but I definitely know more than I knew before coming to Europe.
Aside from learning about current politics, I also learned more about the history of the countries I’m visiting. In my World History class, we were learning about World War II. Later in the semester, I would visit as Auschwitz, Theresienstadt, Sachsenhausen, and Yad Vashem.
We learned about communism in Europe. I would then go on to visit the Museum of Communism in Prague. In Berlin, I would go visit the Berlin Wall, and in Budapest, I would go on a tour that gave an insight into what life in communist Hungary was like.
Taking a history class abroad made my experience all the more special because I was able to learn about these places in class and then be able to see the sites in person and know the history.
One of my friends commented about how I’m getting such a well-rounded education through this experience and looking back on all that I’ve seen and learned, I can say I agree.