Freedom

After 4 final exams in the span of 72 hours, I have finally completed my studies here at UC3M. It was an exhausting week that included a lot of studying and very little sleeping, but I have just recently recovered and am ready to reflect on my classes here.

Education in Europe is much different from the United States in my experience, not necessarily good or bad, but just a different approach with a different emphasis on certain things. For instance, every final that I took this past week accounted for 50-60% of my grade and I felt the increase in pressure while studying and taking the exam. It almost made me feel as if the work I had put in the entire semester boiled down to this 2 hour exam and in my personal opinion students should not be put in that position.

However, in other instances I thought that the professors here in Spain afforded us a lot more leeway than professors in the U.S. would have. I am talking in terms of assignments, deadlines, circumstances outside of the classroom, etc. Many would argue that this approach would allow students to slack off, but I felt that I took away as much knowledge in these courses as I would back in New Paltz and isn’t that the point?

While my time at UC3M may be over, my time in this amazing city, country, and continent is far from over and now that I don’t have my classes to worry about, I am very excited for what comes next. I will be visiting a few other cities in Spain prior to the arrival of my family on Christmas and then in January I will begin my “Euro-Trip,” which includes stops in Dublin, London, Berlin, and Paris. This will all be uncharted territory for me that I have only been able to dream about and I am counting down the days!

 

Milano In My Mind

AC Milan game with fellow SUNY students Gaby, and Yvonne

AC Milan game with fellow SUNY students Gaby and Yvonne

So the truth is: I have been meaning to write this post for a while now, but the rush back into reality got in the way.

11048267_10153392746133921_7202297963475849159_nLet me start by summarizing where we left off from my last blog.  The last thing I wrote about was my performance in my dramaturgy class for our final exam.  Since then I completed my last finals of college.  Since then I have also received my grades for my final semester of college:  For the first time ever I received straight ‘A’s (minus the one class I took S/U in which I received an ‘S’).  I take a lot of pride in these grades, considering this was my final college semester, and this was a first for me.   I ended college with a bang, and I do believe my GPA will thank me.  This also means I am (almost) a college graduate.  We are hoping that my grades are received in time for me to graduate in August.

Teatro alla Scala

Teatro alla Scala

23!

23!

Beyond academics I also attended my first AC Milan football game, something I wanted to do all semester!  I saw my first ever opera at La Scala, another place I was hoping to get to before the semester’s end.  I celebrated my 23rd birthday.  I also made sure to be a complete and total tourist in my own city.  It took almost leaving Milan for me to push myself to do all of the things I had been eager to do for months but hadn’t yet.  I created a Milan bucket list, full of things I had never done and things I needed to do one last time before departing.  I am very content with the results of my bucket list.

Greetings from the Highlands in Scotland

Greetings from the Highlands in Scotland

My final days abroad, I used the remainder of my bravery to travel alone to Scotland, the Amalfi Coast, Florence (again), and Sicily.  I traveled alone for two entire weeks, before returning back to Milan for my final day abroad, in order to see the World Expo.  The theme of this year’s Expo, held in Milan from late May through October, is “Feeding the Planet; Energy for Life.”  All year it was hyped up to us: “What a blessing it is, and how lucky we students are to have this event in our backyard.”  I truly cannot agree more.  This, for those who still have the opportunity to check out the Expo, is a must see!

Channeling my inner Angolan fisherman at the world expo

Channeling my inner Angolan fisherman at the World Expo

Since then I have returned to the United States for a slap in the face by reality’s hand.  I miss Milan more than I could ever have imagined!  But the truth is I know this is: a) a good sign and b) completely normal.   I miss Milan so much because of the amazing time I spent there.  I do not take that magical place, any of my travels, friends, school, food, or anything else about my study abroad life for granted.  Studying at Universita Catollica del Sacro Cuore made Milan my home.  I find it funny that I miss Milan so much that I even miss the bad stuff!  I remember when my friend Stephanie warned me after my post about adjusting that “Just you wait!   You will go home and be missing the negative aspects, too.  You learn to take them with a grain of salt and miss it all.”  She’s right.

Positano Beach!

Positano Beach!

Staff Orientation with my high school buddy, Evan

Staff Orientation with my high school buddy, Evan

Arriving home, I truly hit the ground running.  There is never really a free moment; hence, the last blog only now.  My adjustment has been rough.  I haven’t really had downtime.  I came home, immediately got sick with a cold, successfully completed a very challenging juice cleanse, and started work.  I am working this summer as a head counselor of five year olds at The JCC Pearl River day camp.  The job is proving to be one of my greatest challenges to date.  Beyond this I am back living at home now, with the summer addition of my pregnant sister, meaning there are 4.5 of us living in one NYC apartment.  Makes sense I’m having a rough transition back to America.  I am lucky to have a support system at home, but nobody can ever really understand my situation because my situation is specific to me.  It is nice to be home, and sure I could not stay in Milan forever.  But to go back for even one day now would be the greatest gift ever.  I am the luckiest girl in the world to have been given this experience.  Although my heart remains in Milano, I hope to take some notes from my European adventures and make the most of my time here in the United States.

11401267_10153431658718921_3719835922191387212_nSo to Milano I say:  I must thank you for changing who I am as a person.  I can now truly say that my pledge sister Kimberly is correct when saying one changes via study abroad.  “Til next time Italy,” is all I can say.  I WILL be back! Just you wait and see.  Or, as my friend Heidi says, at the Study Abroad 10 Year Reunion 😉  What the future holds for me is a complete and utter mystery, and truth be told I am completely okay with that.  Because truth is what is life without a little mystery?”  But I will be sure to update any of those who remain interested in my future whereabouts.  And as I mentioned beforehand, Italy has not seen the last of me!

So my dear readers, if this is truly my last post, my final advice must be that you all follow your hearts and follow your dreams.  Go see the world; you will not regret it!  Ciao for now <3

Reunited with my Abba at JFK airport

Reunited with my Abba at JFK airport

Tamara

Palermo Cathedral, Sicily!

Palermo Cathedral, Sicily!

No Gov, No PSL

For the time that I’ve been here, my main concern as an American has been the poor dollar-to-euro exchange…but on a MUCH less serious note, my next main concern has been that Starbucks España doesn’t offer my beloved pumpkin spice latte (PSL.) Although the autumn chill only recently hit Madrid (about a week and it’s still in the 70s !), Tumblr, Facebook and all clothing websites have kindly reminded me it’s time for crunchy leaves, warm sweaters, and pumpkin-flavored everything. I love making treats from scratch and there are plenty of PSL-recipes that I’m sure I could stir up whenever I want. But it’s just not the same. #AmericanProblems

Well, I planned on writing this post a couple weeks ago, but homework and traveling have gotten in the way (boy, am I lucky enough to say that!), but it seems that now is finally time to put together this post. Why? Well…

“[Starting Monday October 1, 2013] the US government has begun shutting its non-essential services. Hundreds of thousands of workers are waking up to the news that they are on unpaid leave, and they don’t know how long it will last….The Federal government had no choice. The US financial year ended on 30 September, and politicians on Capitol Hill have failed to agree a new budget for the 2013-2014 financial year….No, it’s not an anarchist’s (or libertarian’s?) dream. Essential services, such as social security and Medicare payments, will continue. The US military service will keep operating, and Obama signed emergency legislation on Monday night to keep paying staff. But hundreds of thousands of workers at non-essential services, from Pentagon employees to rangers in national parks, will be told to take an unpaid holiday.” (The Guardian)

“It is the first shutdown in 17 years and the dollar fell early on Tuesday.” (BBC News)

Major Spanish news sources have been very objective on reporting the politics of the  government shutdown, but their focus remains on issues like the halt of scientific research, and  the closing of national parks and major tourist sites like the Statue of Liberty. I don’t have many international-relations-major Spanish friends so no one has yet to bring up the shutdown. According to NPR, “the president warns that the whole world is watching this drama and the reviews are not good. ‘It makes us look like we don’t have our act together,’ said President Obama.” Maybe I’ll be the one to start asking my peers some questions…

Even still, living outside of the United States is a real eye-opener. The U.S. is a baby on the historical timeline, we are a world super power and are highly regarded (most Spanish people’s eyes light up when they hear I’m from New York). It seems that most college students understand that neither the United States, Spain nor any other country is perfect and that our systems of government might not have it all together, but in the end we’re here to make a difference. Since I’m often busy while I’m at college, it’s not as easy to put my own worries aside to follow national and international news, but now I make time to pay attention to what’s going on. Better late than never.For those of you also traveling,  tune into NYTimes, NPR, and BBC News and while in Spain El Pais, El Mundo, and The Local for easy-going Spanish news in English.)

In terms of infrastructure (irrigation, public transportation, roads, potable water, etc.), it isn’t very difficult making the transition from being in the U.S. to being in Spain. Though shops closing for the siesta has taken some getting used to and not having my dear Starbucks pumpkin spice latte this season is a bummer, this semester abroad is a great time to think about the country I’m in,  the country I come from, and the world as one big smorgasbord of ideas.

*Note: The pumpkin spice latte is more a symbol of the season than an actual obsession, I promise.

[UPDATE: 10/17/13: “The US government partial shutdown is over after 16 days. Hundreds of thousands of workers were laid off, businesses have been hurt, and the standing of US credit in the eyes of the world was severely impacted.” (BBC News)

My best friend, who currently attends American University, is working on her thesis and wasn’t able to go to the Library of Congress to access the resources she needed until the furlough was over. Though is the closest person to me that’s been affected by the government shutdown, I fear my whole country will be feeling the effects.]