Studying Abroad…And Returning Home

Most Manhattan College students call Riverdale their home during the school year. These three Jaspers, however, embraced a change of scenery and traveled to foreign countries during their college career.

As a college student, arguably one of the best things you could do is study abroad. It is a great way to learn how to be independent even more than simply being at college away from home and your family. Manhattan College has a large study abroad program that offers semesters in various cities such as Madrid, Spain, Buenos Aires, Argentina and Florence, Italy.

“College gives you a unique opportunity to travel away and still have the protection of a home school back in the states,” junior Elizabeth O’Connor said, who spent last semester abroad in Dublin, Ireland. “I was able to be five time zones away from my parents, financially supporting myself and making adult decisions for myself.”

“Everyone should study abroad,” senior English major Sera Pisani said, who studied in Barcelona, Spain during her fall semester of her junior year. “It should be required for everyone to study abroad.”

Staying in the neighborhood of Gracia, Pisani was right outside the center of Barcelona. Tiny restaurants and cafés lined the streets of the neighborhood and the yellow line of the metro gave her close accessibility to travel elsewhere.

“My experience was really amazing,” Pisani said, “because it was something we were able to experience individually. We weren’t thrown into a program. We were able to figure it all out on our own and it contributed to our growing experience that is studying abroad.”

Senior art history and English major Matt Coyne spent a semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This was his second study abroad trip, previously visiting Florence, Italy. Both of these trips gave him insight on what it is like to see America from a different perspective.

“I became acutely aware of the way Americans are viewed in other countries,” Coyne said. “I got the European view on Americans and then it was fascinating to get the Latin American view as well.”

(Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth O'Connor)
(Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth O’Connor)

O’Connor went back to her Irish heritage and chose Dublin to see the places that her ancestors used to call home. Comparing the two cultures, O’Connor said that Ireland is much more relaxed than America.

“No one seems to care about what you’re doing,” she said, “whether it be your weekend plans for exploring or how you are going in class. It is so much less judgmental as well. The Irish love their banter, so a sassy wit and acceptance of that will get you far.”

As for Barcelona, the culture is much more family and friend oriented than America, according to Pisani. Buenos Aires is quite similar to this, with a strong focus on social gatherings.

“Catalan culture is very gregarious,” she said. “It is very oriented around a community, nothing like New York.”

“It is extremely social,” he said. “Everything is based on social gatherings and people talk to you in the streets. It’s kind of the opposite of the closed-off New York. Argentineans will hug and kiss and stop you for hours at a time.”

Pisani decided to choose Barcelona for its location by the Mediterranean Sea and for the city’s known architecture as some of the best in the world.

“I learned how to put myself out there and meet new people. I became able to find things in common with people who come from completely different cultures, which was probably my favorite part.”

Coyne wanted to study in Buenos Aires because he was familiar with the city from a previous trip in high school and he has friends there. His grandfather lived in Argentina for six years before coming to America.

The main problem with studying abroad, however, is the transition back to America. While the trip to a foreign country is hard at first, it is not easy when it is time to come home.

Along with this, there are some things to readjust to, such as driving on the right side of the road or even certain spellings for O’Connor. Coyne used the word depressing to describe transitional back to America and said he had to get used to speaking English again after speaking Spanish during the trip.

“There was a culture shock going there and a culture shock coming back,” Pisani said. “I think you have the post-abroad depression. It was nice to be home though, coming back to that familiarity. Even every day since, I have this longing to go back to that feeling of being completely independent and seeing so much of the world.”