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My Italian Excursion through Europe Part 1

On The Bumpy Beetle

I am officially a senior in college!! I am so excited to finally be the big fish in the pond. I'm excited for all my friends to finally turn 21 so that we can live our dream of sipping cosmos and dishing on the latest men in our lives like Sex and The City. I'm excited to finally graduate! I'm just kidding. I am the complete opposite of excited. My college town in Chico, California has become my second home away from home. It's my comfort zone. It's where I have grown up the most. I have made friends that will last me a life time as well as friends who I learned were not the best of people to surround myself with. One of the most inspiring moments I have had in college was studying abroad in Torino, Italy. Or Turin if you're a real Italian ;) The picture above is The Colosseum in Rome!!

During my 4 month stay in Torino, I traveled to 7 different countries: Germany, France, Spain, Netherlands, Ireland, Prague, and of course Italia Bella. :)

I could go on and say all the cliche' things people usually say about being abroad like, "it was an amazing experience", "it was so much fun", or "the partying was insane" but none of those statements come anywhere close to what living and studying in another country is like. The truth is that if you go and live in another country you will discover more things about yourself and the world around you than you ever imagined. I have a confession to make. I am still infected with the travel bug!!! I came back from Europe this past December but my soul still remains wandering the cobblestoned streets of Italy sipping on espressos and munching on a panini. I graduate from Chico State in Spring 2015 and right now I want to teach English in Europe! (The above picture is Pope Francis in Vatican City, technically it's own country located in Rome!)

Critical Incident Essay #1

On Bits 'N Blogs

It’s early morning, and I have just gotten off of a six-hour flight from the US to the UK. After all the prep work that it took to get here, here I am at the final step – Heathrow Airport Customs. I am tired and groggy and have a strong desire to take a long shower. Miraculously, I make it to the front of the line, even though my flight had over 100 students on board, and I managed to sit in the middle of all of them. I’m feeling pretty nervous, not just for this last step of acceptance into London, but because I don’t know what to expect once I crossover. My close friends are all back at Syracuse, putting up with the recent dump of snow, and here I am feeling more alone than ever. However, don’t get me wrong! I am beyond excited, but at this point, the anticipation is driving me insane. I weave in and out of the maze of rope barriers. Customs is pretty deserted this morning and because I am the first person in line, I quickly make my way to the front.

When I finally manage to get to the first desk. I hand over my documents, and a woman takes my paperwork. “How long will you be in the UK?”, she asks. I tell her I am studying abroad, and will be here between January 19th and May 8th, slightly stumbling over my words. I then quickly correct myself, realizing she was probably just looking for a simple “four months”. To be honest, I am not exactly quite sure what she said after that, but it was something along the lines of “you’ve got to be shitting me.” (Actually, I think those were her exact words, no joke.) She looks behind me with a look of dread at all the other students. “Are all of you studying abroad?” At this moment, I literally have no words to respond. I can’t tell if she’s being serious or sarcastic. I just want to make it into London. I just want my semester to start. Her next response is something along the lines of, “Who would ever want to study here?” What? Now, I am beyond confused. Is this really happening?

Thankfully, she explains that this process used to be a lot quicker, but with new regulations she has to go through all this annoying paperwork. It takes longer, and makes her life harder. She just wants to go home, and now she has to go through the motions for each and every one of us. Luckily, she’s sitting next to another customs officer, who has a friendlier personality. He seems to calm her down, calm me down, and make me smile. He cracks a joke about the whole situation, and the tension is defused. I start to relax realizing that this isn’t really my problem, It’s hers. I answer the rest of her questions. She fills out the paperwork. I make my way through, and she “smiles” and says something like “have a nice semester.” However, at this point all I can think about is that I finally made it in. Thank God!

It’s taken me a long time to think about what to write for my first “Critical Incident Essay.” (Okay, to be really honest, I’ve been slightly procrastinating. However, in my defense, I couldn’t really think of a moment that I deemed significant enough to write about.) Recently, I have been thinking a lot about my role as student here, and how I feel about being labeled a “foreigner.” The scene I have just described was my first realization of my place here in the UK. Looking back at this moment, I realize what was really happening. One, this moment was a reflection of my anxiety about coming to London. Everything in this moment magnified itself in my head because I was tired, nervous, and anxious to start my semester. Two, this situation reminded me that everyone isn’t as excited as me about my semester here abroad.

Since this experience, I have learned that the UK government is nervous about students studying abroad because many of them try to stay here afterwards as permanent residents. The customs officer was upset about all the paperwork, but she could very well have been upset about all these people, all these American students coming to live in her country for four months. Or, maybe she simply wanted to go home after an exhausting night’s work. Thinking about this a little further, I also wonder if the change in border regulations reflects this fear of students studying abroad. Could the extra paperwork customs now has to deal with be a way to regulate and keep closer watch over the students studying abroad here? I’m not sure, but this is an interesting thought.

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