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Study Ablog: From Paris/DC/Barcelona with Love

The following blog post was written by peer advisor Michaela, a SEAS junior studying Civil Engineering and International Affairs. Learn more about Michaela here.

During my sophomore year, I was set on studying abroad in the fall of my junior year. I had everything: syllabi from four different schools, appointments set up with my department to approve courses, an Excel sheet set up to track my progress, even Pinterest board of travel ideas.

Alyssa and I displaying the two ways to approach fancy benches in the Louvre.

Alyssa and I displaying the two ways to approach fancy benches in the Louvre.

However, due to restrictions from my major, all of those plans fell apart. I would be staying on campus my whole junior year.

However, an idea struck me as I began my semester feeling like the one junior not studying abroad: why don’t I just go anyways? I had saved up enough money from my summer internship, and I had friends that were already abroad. Even if they were in classes, I’d be in a whole different city and could probably entertain myself. So that’s exactly what I did. My former roommate/other-half-of-my-brain Alyssa was studying abroad in Paris for a year. I booked a ticket to visit her over spring break and for nine days, I got to “study abroad.”

The inside of La Sagrada Familia

The inside of La Sagrada Familia

We visited everywhere: Louvre, Centre Pompidou, the Eiffel Tower, Musee d’Orsay, Sacre Coeur, all the things. Since Alyssa had been in France since the fall, she knew a lot about the city. I also got to go with her program to Barcelona and visit the Miro Foundation and La Sagrada Familia. But I also had a lot of fun on my own when she had to be in class or studying. I wandered around fabric shops and cemeteries and Japanese cheese cafes (no joke, wasabi goat cheese will change your life). While I loved traveling with Alyssa, I also learned a lot about myself in my many walks alone. I could only text US numbers with my phone, so I had to become a lot more reliant on maps and aware of my surroundings. I also realized that having barely any structure to a day was actually wonderful. I once literally followed my nose to a market stall in Barcelona and had the best baked potato of my life. I hadn’t planned to find the potato, nor did I know any of the English names of the ingredients (my limited experience with Spanish had not prepared me for Catalonian).

Photo Credit to a Swedish friend I made while waiting in line.

Photo Credit to a Swedish friend I made while waiting in line.

A lot of students dream of study abroad, but study abroad doesn’t have to be limited to semesters. There are numerous opportunities to study abroad during the summer and to work and volunteer abroad. Even with these alternate opportunities, I think that this experience traveling almost on my own was very rewarding. It may seem scary at first, but as long as you have a semi-plan and someone to turn to in case of an emergency (thank you Alyssa) you can really create a wonderful experience.

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