Staff Rants: Our time abroad

Members of WSN’s staff who have studied away during their time at NYU reflect on their experiences and discuss what they’d do differently.

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Aaliya Luthra

(Illustration by Aaliya Luthra)

When I studied in Paris last semester,  I traveled quite a bit — sometimes impulsively — and my classes started to feel trivial. Does my homework really matter when I could skip writing it and spend a peaceful weekend in Oslo? To be honest not really. But at the end of the day, you can’t study abroad and just forget the studying part. So I had to ground myself and remember that I was still in Paris to take my classes and learn, which, surprisingly, I did enjoy doing. And when I booked trips, I had to also devote the time to plan everything out not just buy tickets and figure it out.

Now that I’m in Buenos Aires, with the wisdom of my first semester studying abroad, I have a much better grip on my classes and know how to balance them with my travels. If you have an assignment and you know you’ll be traveling the weekend before it is due, definitely get it over with beforehand. And if you are traveling, do the research about public transportation, the local language and what to see. Implementing what I learned this semester has made the experience way less overwhelming. Moral of the story: if you want to reduce your stress abroad, don’t put things off. Do the essay before the deadline. Make the itinerary before you get there. And then enjoy it, because you’ll have some of the best moments of your life.

— Juliana Guarracino, Abroad Editor. Studied in Paris and Buenos Aires.

Juliana Guaraccino wears a black sweater and black jeans. She poses in front of a lake surrounded by mountains.
Juliana Guaraccino in Buenos Aires. (Courtesy of Juliana Guaraccino)

Studying abroad in Paris was the highlight of my college experience. It was such a breath of fresh air from the mundanity of New York City, and I was genuinely surprised that I rarely got homesick. Being abroad honestly helped me view the world differently, and now I’m that person who goes “When I was in Paris… ” any chance I get.

What I would’ve done differently, though, is probably not enrolled in that NYU Global Internship program. It ate up too much of my time, and it didn’t feel entirely worth it. The class I had to take with it felt like a waste of time, and the weeks that I didn’t have the internship were probably the best ones. If I had the opportunity to go abroad for more than one semester, I wouldn’t be complaining about it — it does look real good on a resume — but because I only had one shot, it kind of sucked that my time was limited. I realized halfway through the semester that I had to make a conscious decision to go out a lot more if I wanted to visit all the museums, landmarks and spots on my list. Planning itineraries ahead of time would’ve been helpful so I didn’t have to run around so much. I also wish I was a little less stingy with my money and ate out more instead of crying over dirty pots and spending half an hour meal prepping for the week. Somehow, I ended up speaking more Spanish than French in France, and while my French improved so much, I wish I made more French friends. 

— Lorraine Olaya, Deputy Managing Editor. Studied in Paris.

Lorraine Olaya in Paris.
Lorraine Olaya in Paris. (Courtesy of Lorraine Olaya)

I woke up consistently without an alarm for the first time ever, energized because my summer lasted seven months in Abu Dhabi. I had classes only two days a week, so I jam packed my four-day weekends with fun and made my Best Friends 4 Lyfe.

Pro: I now have a place to stay on every continent except Antarctica and friends to call at any ungodly hour of the day. We have matching Expo 2020 Dubai passports and name-engraved friendship bracelets handmade in Turkey.

Con: I cried on the plane ride home and now have separation anxiety. 

Pro: Learning Adobe Photoshop finally came in handy. I went to a concert and my friend got her COVID-19 booster in another country.

Con: I’ll let you fill in the blanks. 

I should have also brought my portable charger before my phone died in a taxi, but I didn’t sweat it because I felt safer in the United Arab Emirates than I ever have and will in New York. I ever so slightly wish I caved and ate a proper chicken shawarma before I left, but I’m vegetarian. But where else can I say I affordably went to a yacht party and a pink lake? No regrets.

— Roshni Raj, Culture Editor. Studied in Abu Dhabi.

Roshni Raj and friends visit the Abu Dhabi Expo 2020.
Roshni Raj in Abu Dhabi (Roshni Raj for WSN)

Studying abroad in Florence this fall has been my first (mostly) COVID-19-restriction-free NYU semester and overall a much-needed change of pace from the cacophony of New York City. The Italian lifestyle is indulgent in everything slow-moving, which is lovely in so many ways, until the buses either show up late or don’t show up at all. And with the infamous hill of the Via Bolognese from the center of Florence up to NYU’s campus, resigning yourself to this slow way of things is always necessary if you want to avoid a lofty and lengthy walk.

I wish I resisted a bit more the pressure to be engaged in a constant travel cycle. Now, I stayed in Florence many weekends, during which I immersed myself in the local culture — something you miss by always being on the move. But with your friends talking about scheduling international trips every weekend without fail, ensuring that not a single weekend is “wasted,” there’s a constant feeling of needing to book that cheap Ryanair flight to London, or splurge on that Halloweekend trip to Barcelona and everything in between.

I’m happy I wasn’t traversing the whole European continent every weekend, but it felt like some trips I booked were just for the sake of having something to do, especially since many of my Florence weekends I enjoyed alone when most of my friends were off in some other country. Some of my friends even complained about how much they had booked, for their sake and that of their bank accounts (see WSN’s NYU study abroad student guide to traveling Europe on a budget for a comprehensive guide on how to keep you and your bank account happy). But ultimately, we’re here to travel abroad, not study abroad, right, NYU? Oh wait, yeah, you’ve got 12-18 credits to worry about in between all the trips. Whatever.

— Luca Richman, Social Media Editor. Studied in Florence.

Luca Richman wears a light beige sweater, gray pants and a black backpack. He straps a film camera around his neck. He stands in a garden.
Luca Richman in Florence. (Courtesy of Luca Richman)

Taking time away from my life in New York has been unexpectedly therapeutic, especially for someone who’s never lived anywhere else. New routine, new city, new friends — it forces you to make a hard reset and reevaluate your life and your relationships from a new perspective. Right before leaving for Prague, the most intense FOMO came over me. I was so worried about feeling alienated from my friends in New York and missing out on memories, but I think the space I’ve taken to strengthen my independence and sense of self has made my relationships stay consistent, if not stronger. So, please don’t worry too much if you’re like me and decide to study abroad without knowing anyone. Everyone else is in the same boat. You will make friends and the excitement of being in a new city definitely helps.

In my opinion, Prague is one of the more underrated NYU study abroad sites. With such beautifully preserved medieval architecture and a fascinating history — the Czech Republic is the country that brought us Václav Havel, the word “robot,” and Franz Kafka (oh, and Ivana Trump too) — it deserves the same love that Paris, London and Florence get! Also, yes, it is 100% possible to have a fun study abroad experience on a budget especially in Prague, where a beer is usually just under $2, and cheaper than ordering a water or soda. I’ve been saving money (and effort — travel is exhausting) by keeping my travel limited mostly within the Czech Republic and sometimes to a neighboring country. I keep most of my weekends free anyways, so I can explore Prague’s many historical sites and its unique mix of neighborhoods. I firmly believe in appreciating where you are before anything else.

— Vivian Stockley, Deputy Abroad Editor. Studied in Prague.

Vivian Stockley wears a black sweater, a blue, red and white striped jacket and blue jeans. She stands on a bridge in front of a river.
Vivian Stockley in Prague. (Courtesy of Vivian Stockley)

Contact Juliana Guarracino at [email protected]; Lorraine Olaya at [email protected]; Roshni Raj at [email protected]; Luca Richman at [email protected]; Vivian Stockley at [email protected]