Abroad in Europe
March 21, 2016
NYU’s 13 campuses across the globe span oceans and allow students to hop across continents from one country to the next. It goes without saying that our global network is huge. New this semester, the Abroad Desk serves as an effort to bring us all a little bit closer. By sharing the voices and visions of the NYU students who are abroad, we can make that network just a little less enormous. We can learn from each other, and hopefully, our stories will inspire each other to step outside our campus bubble and experience another corner of the world.
Naples in 10 frames
‘Eat, Pray, Love’ or Don’t
Before I left for Florence, I embraced the idea of the “Eat, Pray, Love” lifestyle a little too much, hanging onto the premise that traveling was all about finding yourself or becoming someone new. In the novel, Elizabeth Gilbert had no problem picking herself up and out of her life to traverse the world. I’ve learned that traveling is not about leaving my life behind. I’m not running from anything and I’m not leaving anything behind or reinventing my life into something it isn’t.
Living over 4,000 miles from home, I thought that my life in the States would feel far more distant from my life in Italy than it actually does. I’ve learned that strange things will catch me off guard and remind me of New York.
Talking to a cab driver in Milan about how my day went was reminiscent of late nights in Manhattan when I knew I could make the trip by foot, but would end up hailing a cab anyway and inevitably spill the details of my day to a complete stranger.
Odd things like the sound of the dishwasher in the apartment that I share with nine other girls would remind me of home — bringing me back to the intrusively loud silence of my house after all my extended family had gone home. The leftovers would be in neatly stacked Tupperware containers in the fridge, the dog curled up in her bed and I’d be heading upstairs to sleep while the dishwasher whirred in the background.
No one could have told me that when it rains in Santorini in the spring, staying in and killing time with two travel buddies would feel like a childhood play date.
Studying abroad has started to teach me that the feeling of deja vu will follow me wherever I go because I’m taking all of my
experiences with me. It’s almost as though I’m carrying them around like a passport full of stamps, except they’re feelings, which are messier than a simple rubber stamp record — but they are equally important.
I can bounce my feelings off as many Italian cab drivers as I want, but that can’t take away the fact that the problems that plagued me in New York weren’t shed at Customs. There isn’t a nine-hour flight to anywhere that will enlighten me as to why my long-term relationship ended, or a Mediterranean beach that will solve all of my problems. I’m learning that’s alright.
It’s been nearly two months since I spent a full weekend in Florence. I’m fortunate enough that I can travel as often as I do and see as many places in Europe as I have. I’m starting to appreciate spontaneity: hopping on a train or a quick flight, finding somewhere to stay upon arrival and being comfortable with wandering around. Leaving maps and schedules behind has brought me to beautiful places and for the times that I didn’t, I learned how to handle the less-than-stellar travel experiences. “Eat, Pray, Love” was Elizabeth Gilbert’s experience, not my own — and once I realized that, I finally stopped trying to make it mine.
Email Grace Halio at [email protected]
Divided by a Common Language
I like to think I’m pretty good at English. This isn’t bragging, but I’ve spent a lot of my time speaking the language. Also, to my credit: I’m an English major. So I came to London to learn more about it, and it’s the first time I’ve felt self-conscious about saying the right thing since second grade.
In my defense, English isn’t easy to master, and this is because there are infinite Englishes. I know Massachusetts English best, and will fight someone if they insult my use of the words “bubbler” or “wicked.” But generally, my language is widely
accepted in New York.
London, however, is a different story. The city is the birthplace of English, which is of course the bastard child of German, Latin and basically any other language that someone happened to speak while passing through England. The language is constantly changing in both space and time because we absorb words we like from anything we please. Any region you go to will have a different English. Yet the gulf between America’s and England’s English is perhaps the largest. Unless you count ebonics, I suppose, but let’s not talk about ebonics.
First, there are the aesthetic differences. Most of these were thanks to Noah Webster, who looked at the English way of spelling things and decided it was pretty dumb. For the most part he was right, and that’s why we don’t spell things like “gaol” or “theatre.” It should be noted a lot of his spellings didn’t catch on, though, so we don’t spell believe like “beleev” or women like “wimmin.” But excluding his many flops, the “American Dictionary of the English Language” set us on the path to American English.
Next, there are the words that don’t exist in America. I was taking a quiz on the Guardian’s website the other day to find out how millennial I am (don’t ask) and one of the answers to “It’s SATURDAY NIGHT. What are your plans?” was “Nowt. I’m skint.” Apparently this means “Nothing. I’m poor.” Another example is that instead of taking coffee “to-go” they just get it “takeaway.” And if you say “to-go” you get glared at like you’re a bloody div.
And lastly, there are the cultural differences that impact language. One thing I was dying to ask a British person was if they used the baseball metaphor. The one for sex, I mean. I thought they wouldn’t because the only sport with bases they have is cricket, and that only has two. So either they use cricket and things
progress a lot quicker on dates, or they use a different metaphor altogether. Alas, I was informed that they don’t use a metaphor at all, which is unfortunate.
In all, English and English are pretty similar. But perhaps the greatest difference of all is that when the British come to the United States, people swoon over their accents — there’s actually an ad for Las Vegas here that says “Visit a place where your accent is an aphrodisiac.” Sadly, the American accent in London doesn’t work that way.
Email Thomas Devlin at [email protected]
Body Positivity in Prague
If there is one thing about living in the United States that transcends age or social status, it’s the pressure to look “good.” We are constantly bombarded by sexy models in the best clothes, ads with beautiful people telling us the benefits of going to the gym and celebrities with flawless — photoshopped — skin on fad diets.
Growing up a chubby, acne-ridden kid in Connecticut, I never fit into that mold. I hit puberty in fifth grade, grew to a towering 5 feet 5 inches in sixth grade and had braces until my freshman year of high school. While most of the kids in my town were playing soccer and lacrosse, I was doing theater and playing video games. At an early age I realized that the skinny people I saw on TV did not represent me in any way.
Throughout high school my weight became an even bigger issue. I can’t count the number of nights I would lay on my bed crying, wishing that I could chop off all my problem areas. In my very sports-oriented, body-conscious town, I stood out and I knew it.
My freshman year of college I gained the freshman 15, plus 25 more pounds. Despite all the diets, trips to the gym and meals I skipped, I was unhappy regardless of the weight I would lose. I felt like a prisoner in my own body and I began to resent every inch of it.
And then I decided to go study away in Prague. I had my mind set on losing weight, but within the first few days my thought process began to change. Instead of spending my free time obsessing in front of the mirror, sucking in my stomach and counting calories, I started having fun. I became much more focused on museum trips, traveling and the overall beauty that surrounded me. I stopped looking in mirrors altogether and began to wear almost no makeup.
When I went to the bathhouses in Budapest I wore a bikini. My leg hair was entirely too long and I had hippie-length armpit hair, but I didn’t care at all. I felt at one with my body, as did everyone else. There was no one to impress, no mental game of who looks the best: everyone was just relaxing. For the first time in years I felt beautiful.
Email Mariah Melendez at [email protected]nyunews.com.