Indiana University Overseas Study


Erik Trautman

It was 6:50 p.m. on April 25th, 2014, which happened to be the Friday night of my last Little 500 at Indiana University and the second night of IU cinema’s Italian Film Festival Conference. I debated with myself whether or not to attend the film as I was torn between my desire to improve my Italian language skills and my love for the Bloomington nightlife. Finally, and without a second to spare, I kicked back the last of my drink and stepped out into the crisp spring air.

As I biked down 7th street towards the IU cinema that evening, I wondered, “How socially pathetic am I going to appear showing up to a half vacant theater unaccompanied on the Friday night of IU’s biggest celebration?” To my surprise, I wasn’t the only lonely soul hustling to make the 7 pm showing of Carlo Verdone’s Io, Loro, e Lara or Me, Them, and Lara. As I grabbed my ticket and entered the theater a feeling of belonging swept over me. Not only was the theater packed tight but students of my age were in attendance and some I recognized from class. I took a seat just as the director and main actor, Carlo Verdone, began to talk about his film.

Lara from "Me, Them and Lara"

Lara from “Me, Them and Lara” directed by Carlo Verdone

Verdone talked about the process he went through making Me, Them, and Lara, one of his most successful films and winner of the 2010 Best Comedy Golden Globe. Verdone was a thematic man and he jested about his experience interviewing missionaries to help develop the protagonist of the film, an Italian priest who returns from a missionary trip in Africa to find himself out-of-place in his very home. Verdone reflected on writing the script and how, because of a quickly approaching deadline, he wrote it in less time than any other movie he had produced. After about fifteen minutes of lead up from Verdone, he dedicated the film to his father who had passed away during filming.

I won’t spoil the plot for those of you who wish to see Me, Them, and Lara someday, but I will say the film exuded Verdone’s whimsical humor juxtaposed with the lonesomeness of the protagonist. In the end, the protagonist’s lonesomeness is resolved and I left the theater with a feeling of accomplishment, tranquility, and reconciliation with my own feelings of lonesomeness I had experienced on my way to the theater. As I biked off into the now brisk night air, I had no regrets about the decision to attend the film and I felt goia, joy in English (my mind was in Italian mode), because the night had just begun.

In short, sacrifices and trade-offs are a necessity to study abroad. I sacrificed those few short but precious hours to try to improve my study abroad experience by improving my language skills and cultural knowledge. This was just a sample of my future year abroad but my experience at the Italian Film Festival reassured me that it is a worthwhile sacrifice.

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Kathleen Rutherford

In mere hours I will be on the plane headed due south to my final destination: Santiago, Chile!

At the moment my biggest concern is hoping that I remembered to pack everything I’ll need for an entire semester, but lurking behind my endless mental checklist, excitement is bubbling up inside me.

With two legs of my travelling now complete, Chile is getting closer and closer! There is no telling what exactly my study abroad will entail with regards to my experiences inside and outside the classroom, Chilean culture, and living with a host family. Never before have so many things changed all at once in my life and this gives me the chills—in both a good way and a bad way!

The prospect of maneuvering the largest metro system in South America in a city of six million is one of the more terrifying chills.

However, it pales in comparison to the fact that I will be living in one of the most geographically diverse countries in the world. At my fingertips are: the world’s driest desert (Atacama Desert), Easter Island, Patagonia, the glacier fields, the endless beaches up and down the western coast, and the breathtaking snow-capped Andes Mountains. I’m positively itching to start exploring Chile’s wonders!

Then of course, the thought of leaving for a far-off country and having no clue who I am living with for the next 5 months promptly raises my anxiety level again. Imagine trying to pick out suitable gifts for a host family when you have no idea if they have kids, what ages their kids are if indeed they have any, or if you’re living with another student that’s around your own age. What does one bring as a gift!? It seems to me that a magnet is about the only universal gift that can cross both the age and gender barriers and still make a decent first impression.

Taking classes in Spanish is a much more exciting thought. In Santiago, I will have my choice of classes from three different universities. This means I will literally have thousands of classes to choose from—and from nearly any field. I’ll have the opportunity to take so many Spanish classes I would never have been able to take at IU and I’ll be learning side by side with Chilean natives!

All in all, I’m chomping at the bit to finally get to Santiago and start living a la Chilena. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful experiences from former gringa exchange students and I can’t wait to regale you all with tales of my first days in Santiago!

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Jordin Perkins

It hasn’t quite hit me that in about a week I’ll be settling into my new home in Vienna, Austria. Having watched my sister study abroad in Florence, Italy, I’ve dreamed of this day for years, wishing and hoping that I would get the opportunity to study abroad in Europe, just as she did.

Talking to her about her experience and what to expect, she gave me a few of the normal tips: stay safe when you go out, lock away your passport, etc. Then, just as the other students who have studied abroad had, she promised that I’d learn more about myself and my faith than I ever thought possible.

So, as I sit in front of my open suitcase and stuffed carry-on, I’m overwhelmed with excitement for the next five months to come. I can’t wait to visit the places I’ve circled in my Austria guidebook, learn all about Austria’s rich history in my classes, wander and photograph Austria’s beautiful landscapes, and explore all of Vienna’s small, quaint coffee shops and restaurants.

Having planned this trip from the time I was in middle school, I have a few other things that I’d like to accomplish while I’m there, too:

  1. Become Fluent in the Language. Having taken German for 6 years of my life now, it’s going to be exciting to be able to put all of my hard work and studying into practice!
  2. Travel. I don’t know the next time I’m going to be able to travel out of the United States – or if I’m ever going to get this chance again! I want to take advantage of all that Europe has to offer while I’m in Austria.
  3. Meet People. I want to become friends with not only the other students on the program with me, but with locals from the area as well!
  4. Immerse Myself in the Culture. This means not only learning to live as the locals do, but not allowing myself to be caught up in what I’m missing back in the States, either. I need to be mentally in Austria in order to fully envelop myself in my experiences.
  5. Keep a Journal. I want to be able to look back and read about the little things and laugh. This is just one way to be able to reflect on my trip once I come home.

Knowing some of these will be harder than others, I’ve realized that studying abroad in a foreign country isn’t going to be happy-go-lucky at all times. Keeping this in mind, I’m willing and beyond excited to see what this Austrian opportunity has in store for me!

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Lauren Greco

I attempted to push the thought to the back of my mind, but I knew I could not deny it any longer. It was finally time to say goodbye to the beautiful green countryside of Ireland and hello again to the skyscrapers and sidewalks of Chicago. Although the end was bittersweet, the 8 weeks that led up to that end were full of memories I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

As I finished my last day of work at the Bank of Ireland, I could not help but reflect on the unique opportunity I had been given. I was able to not only learn about an international business environment in the classroom, but I was then able to live within that environment every day for an entire summer. As much as listening to professors in a lecture hall can help aid a student’s understanding of a business practice, environment or process, there truly is nothing like actually being able to immerse oneself in that environment. I was able to understand the financial markets of the country, learn about the public’s opinions of the financial services sector, attend a press conference with the CEO of the Bank and various national and international news outlets, and make long-lasting connections to businesspeople in Europe. In terms of my professional growth, I cannot express how much this summer has meant to me.

While professional growth is important, more importantly I grew as a person in a way that will affect all aspects of my life, not just my future career path. I found myself feeling and acting more independent than I already was, learning how to adapt to my surroundings, and how to make the best of a situation. When I look back to who I was just a few short weeks ago, I can honestly say that going to a different country for a whole summer and not knowing anyone before going has changed me for the better. I feel more confident and ready to take on whatever may come my way.

Interestingly enough, I think the biggest thing I learned from my study abroad experience was to appreciate everything I have and the finite amount of time I have left in college. I distinctly remember sitting in my apartment in Dublin and realizing that I was already halfway done with my college career, and in two short years I will have to say goodbye to Bloomington and enter the unknown of the “real world”. I promised myself right then and there that I would make the most of my time left in Bloomington, similarly to how I tried to make the most of my time in Ireland. Studying abroad has truly opened my mind to the endless possibilities of the world, and some of them are right in front of me. There are so many things that I haven’t done or experienced that I can do right in Bloomington, Indiana, and that realization already has me excited for the upcoming school year and what I can do to make it memorable.

I cannot express enough how valuable my time in Ireland was. I met great friends, traveled to places I never thought I would ever see, did things at work I never thought I would be able to do at such a young age, and saw a true development in myself, both personally and professionally. For me, it was not a difficult goodbye when leaving Ireland, because I cannot imagine not going back one day. Although I had to leave my summer adventure in Europe behind me, I already cannot wait for the future opportunities that the world may present me with. So, here’s to you Ireland. Sláinte.

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Ashli Hendricks

I’ve been back for a month. My last day in Copenhagen was Independence Day, which is an ironic time to realize my crippling dependency on the people I’d gotten to know during my six-week stay.

I spent Independence Evening stumbling around a beach playing “soccer,” because falling is allowed to be called a sport when there’s a ball. The summer sun doesn’t really set in Scandinavia, but there was still this sweeping, aching nostalgia riding out across the sky, a weighty ambedo of everything drawing to a close. Maybe if I threw fistfuls of sand into everybody’s eyes and ran, they’d be blind to the future. I could convince them to let me stay.

soccer on the beach

Inspired by the World Cup

But I had to leave. So I did.

And all this stuff I’ve spewed in posts about new outwardness and positivity that I thought would settle with my wrinkles years from now was suddenly zapped. I was parched by ordinary people with ordinary desires, these simpletons, these peasants.

the high dive

It’s higher than it looks.

I was frustrated with what a gross, insincere cliché it is to say life is changed after a study abroad: What do you mean happy isn’t just the way I am now? I have to work at it everyday? I can’t hire those little Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 maintenance men that I took so much pleasure in drowning? Fix a gear here, a yawning abyss of boredom there.

The inconvenient, obvious truth is that I’d just left the happiest place in the world, and even having written about how similar it is to B-town, the fact of the matter is they’re different.

Copenhagen is an inescapability of love, a factory of it. I almost swore off my lifelong revile of “settling.” I wanted forever, a family, a lame Sears frame in which I never pictured myself. I wanted to be the wrinkled old friends on a train platform, linking arms and singing; the toddlers giggling as they were allowed to captain our castle-moat ferry; even the French bulldogs in every sidecar. I understood why my teacher came to this place fifteen years ago and never left. It was a city of airport reunions, a city in love with love.

But on one visit to a Danish autistic pre-school I learned about a game to teach the kids not to be sore losers. The “loser” of the round who didn’t win candy got a small paper heart that read “pyt med det,” essentially meaning “oh well” or “no big deal.”

Pyt med det

Life lessons start in kindergarten

If a six-year-old can internalize compromise and mental fortitude, then so could I.

“Pyt med det” was still my phone’s lockscreen in Bloomington, but I’d forgotten why. There wasn’t a dorm of 50 adventurers ready to carpe their diem to remind me. There wasn’t a class trip agenda forcing me onto a train every morning.

church of our savior

300 feet, slick with rain and sweat. That’s a fear grin.

But when I stepped outside of my comfort and transportation pass zones, I learned this: just because something’s not who I am, doesn’t mean it’s not who I could be in the two minutes to wait in line for the world’s oldest rollercoaster or the 40 kroner it takes to scale Church of Our Savior’s corkscrew spire. If I expect my attitude to be different than when I left Indiana, I can’t live the same way I did now that I’m back.

I have to be as open-faced as smørrebrød sandwiches.

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To be honest I have been dreading writing this blog entry. I have had no clue how to sum up my entire study abroad experience. I have had no clue how to write about leaving Spain without leaving tears on my keyboard. It is hard to know how to even begin so I will try to do my best.

Returning to old job.

Returning to my old job.

When thinking about study abroad we all think about our last days at home before leaving to a new country and we think about the amazing experiences we will have while we are there. However, we rarely ever think about what things will be like once we get back home after having lived in a foreign country. The experiences we have in different places change who we are. They change how we think and act, they affect our morals and goals. After living in a new place for a year I can say that I am not the same person I was twelve months ago when I left the United States for Madrid, Spain. I do not think or act the same way. I do not want the things I once wanted. I was scared to come home. Now, after having been home for some time I can say that some days are easier than others. Sometimes I wake up completely content, completely happy to be back with my friends and family and to be living my old life. But, sometimes I wake up and realize that my new home and new friends are on the other side of the world. Coming home can be best described as bittersweet. I am so happy to do and see the things that I have missed so much, but at the same time I am sad. I miss everything about Madrid: the atmosphere, the food, the lack of customer service, the dirty restaurant floors and most of all my friends. Right before leaving Madrid my roommate and good friend explained to me that if our year abroad lasted forever the experiences and friendships that we had would not hold the same importance to us. That we cherish our time in Madrid so much and it is so much more special to us because we know it will end. He essentially explained that all good things must come to an end.

returning to family

Spending time with my family after returning home.

Coming home is hard and it is even harder to talk about, which is probably why we never hear much about it. Even though it’s not easy, even though I still long for Spain every day I know that all I can do at this point is be happy for the experience that I had and feel grateful to have a home and group of friends on the other side of the world. In just a few short weeks I will be starting my senior year at IU. Like most seniors, I do not know what my future will hold nor do I know where I will be. However, I do know that I will always have two places to call home.

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Kayne Mettert

That’s it.  It’s over.  The biggest adventure of my life has come to a close.  In the blink of an eye, it seems, I went to Italy and came back to Indiana.  As I drive through town, I realize that nothing here has changed.  My hometown is just as I’d left it which makes me feel as though my European experience was all just a dream.  How is it possible that last week, I could have taken a 5 minute train ride to the Colosseum and now I’m back in the land of the ordinary and the mundane?

On the eve before my last day in Rome, I went out to dinner with my co-workers where they exposed me to some traditional Roman dishes.  During the meal, I mentioned to them how sad I would be when I had to leave Italy the next day.  One of my co-workers looked at me curiously and proceeded to tell me not to be sad.  He told me, that there’s no reason to be sad.  He asked me if I had enjoyed my time here and I told him yes.  He asked me if I had seen a lot of cool things in Italy and I said yes.  He asked me if I had eaten good food in Italy and I said “of course!”  So he told me that I should not be sad since  I had had a fantastic time that will always live with me.  The time I spent abroad may have been limited, but the memories and emotions from my trip are eternal.  I thanked him for his perspective and we continued our meal.

As I sit at home and reflect on the importance of this study abroad program in my life, I begin to realize that it’s importance is invaluable.  Sure, when I was getting ready for this trip, the financial aspects and monetary preparations for the program were stressing me out, but after having completed this journey I can see that the experience I’ve gained is priceless.  Every penny, ounce of stress, and hard work I put towards this trip was worth the professional, academic, and personal growth that I’ve had.  The feats I’ve accomplished are more than I ever could have dreamed of and the wisdom I’ve gained will impact my life for years to come.  I decided to blog my experiences because I wanted to reach other students in an effort to persuade them to study abroad as well.   If anyone reading this is considering studying abroad, I implore you to consider it wholeheartedly and truly understand the profound impact that a program like this can have on your life.  The IU Office of Overseas study is a fantastic resource that can help you travel to some amazing places and see some incredible things.  I am so grateful for the chance I’ve had to live in Italy this summer and I will always remember this adventure fondly and the monumental impact it had on my life.

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