I Came, I Saw, I Fell in Love

Hannah Abel
July 27, 2015

"Indeed à bientôt Hannah, enjoy coming home as it is also part of the experience abroad, and come back soon." I read these words in the reply to an email I sent to one of the IES Paris staff members upon arriving back home after my seven weeks abroad but it has taken some time to really process what they mean.  

I have been back for almost two weeks now, yet only 4 of those days have been spent at home.  Just 36 hours after landing at Jacksonville International Airport to my excited family, we boarded a plane for Washington, DC.  Even though I was still jetlagged, only partially unpacked and tired, I could not think of a better way to culminate this summer experience.  After seven weeks of studying art and urban development in three unique European cities, I found it incredibly rewarding to take what I had learned in my IES curriculum and see it in the context of my home country.  In just three days of exploring, I feel that I have come full circle and can now really truly appreciate what I learned along the way.  

The past seven weeks have been an absolute dream come true, and I am incredibly grateful for the experiences I had along the way.  I was able to travel to 6 different cities in 5 different countries, get lost in countless language translations, eat too much of the most delicious food, expand my horizons immensely, develop a better sense of independence, become a part of three local cultures, visit countless museums and monuments, meet so many different people, celebrate my 21st birthday and learn more than I ever thought was possible in such a short period of time.  Looking back on it now from home I realize I am so lucky to be able to add this chapter to my life and I want to say thank you to everyone who made the experience what it was. 

To anyone who is considering studying abroad or has been presented with the opportunity, take my word and do it.  Even if you're like me and do not have room in your semester schedule, go for the summer program.  Because here's the thing.  You never really know what can happen until you try.  How do you know what you are afraid of if you haven't been face-to-face with it?  I promise you this: staying at home for the semester or summer is easy.  Chances are you probably will not have a different location for class every day.  Or have to worry about getting to class because there is a city-wide public transit site.  Or show up and not be able to communicate with anyone but through facial expressions and hand gestures.  You will have days that you love it, days that you hate it and then plenty of days in between.  Going abroad may not be easy, but it is so worth it and you are reminded of it every single day.  Because how can you complain at when you are sitting in the Parc du Champ de Mars watching the sun set behind the Eiffel Tower?  Or eating Spaghetti Carbonara and Tiramisu while gazing at the Castel Sant'Angelo?  Or having cafe con leche with your professor before class at the Palacio Real?   

Now I understand what it means in that coming home is part of the experience abroad.  Even though I am fully unpacked and the summer days are beginning to trickle down, I know that this experience will stay with me forever.  Sure, I have the souvenirs, artworks and photos to prove that I was here and none of this was actually a dream.  But, it's the memories that will keep me smiling and yearning to come back some day soon.  

I came, I saw, I fell in love.  A little bit in love with the cities surrounding me, a little more with traveling and even more with the person I see myself becoming as a result of this entire experience.  Europe-it's not a goodbye because I know I'll be back for you someday.

Until We Meet Again,


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Hannah Abel

Hannah is a rising senior at University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, majoring in Human and Social Development with minors in Psychology and Education. When she is not in class, Hannah serves as Vice President of Coordinators on the Panhellenic Executive Board and a member of the Student Government Senate as well as being a member of the Homecoming Executive Committee and Kappa Kappa Gamma. While she has been on a safari in Africa and tried fresh sushi in Japan, this will be her first time studying and traveling in Western Europe, a dream of hers since high school. She is excited to document her adventures and hopes to share this blog on the study abroad adventure of a lifetime.

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