I think it is a great opportunity to be able to travel around the area in which you are studying abroad, and even more so, the opportunity to visit other foreign cities. So far I have taken a weekend trip to Barcelona, a day trip to Pompeii, and most recently took a trip with my classmates to Rome! Although two out of my three excursions have been within this Bel Paese, they each have their own culture, history, and rhythm of life.During my weekend in Barcelona, we stayed in a hostel near the city center that was surprisingly cozy. (Side note: I recommend using a website like hostelworld.com to check the reviews on hostels before staying there, as it’s always best to air on the side of caution).(Check out: An Insider’s Guide to Hostels: Do You Know Where You’re Sleeping Tonight?)
It was very cold there, but the presence of the sun tricked us into mustering up the strength to explore. We spent most of our time walking and exploring the works of Gaudí: La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. La Sagrada Familia was my favorite part of the whole trip, because the inside of the Church gave sight to a beautiful array of colors reflecting off of the stained glass.
Inside La Sagrada Familia
Coming in at a close second was the Catalan food. For lunch, the four of us split a dish of Paella—an absolute must—and had our first taste of Sangria! We tried tapas the next night in an effort to get the whole Catalan experience. Overall, the trip was a great success!
During my trip to Rome, we walked over 20 miles, covering everything from the Coliseum to Piazza Navona to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Although the walking left my feet angry, my eyes and my heart were al settimo cielo (in Seventh Heaven). We visited during Carvevale—the celebration ending on Fat Tuesday—so there was confetti and street performers all throughout Piazza Navona. Though the liveliness of the celebration was invigorating, it was the pure silence while witnessing the Sistine Chapel for the first time that served as my awakening. The feeling was similar to that when you fall in love: nauseas and exhilarated, rolling with emotions. You do not have to be a religious person to appreciate such a masterpiece, either. I also loved Rome for its beautiful ability to combine the past with the present, much like I appreciated Pompeii for being open to the future even though its life was cut short by the mountain it was supported by.Piazza Navona
While visiting Pompeii, I was able to walk through each part of the city seeing homes, stores, bakeries, theatres, and places of worship. I learned that the people of Pompeii were quite advanced, and had developed their own systems of laundry, sewerage, and even propaganda for elections. What amazed me most was how the Amphitheatre was designed to echo so that everyone in the audience could hear whoever was talking on the main stage. I sat on the stone seat, closed my eyes, and was able to imagine myself in the midst of a screaming crowd. If you are ever in Southern Italy, you must go to Pompeii to see what I am talking about!Pompeii and Vesuvius
I believe that going on excursions allows you to see glimpses of different cultures, which is important for a full, enriching study abroad experience. At the same time, I wouldn’t recommend planning a trip every weekend. As important as it is to see the world at large, it’s equally important to get to know your city on a more personal level—a level that can only be reached if you spend more time there than Monday through Friday.(Check out: The Pros and Cons of Travel During Study Abroad)
Another reason I believe in going on excursions is to realize how close you have grown to your study abroad city. I did not realize the extent of how much I love Sorrento, until I left it. I truly loved visiting Rome, but I found myself longing for Sorrento. I missed the church bells sounding every half hour and watching Italian game shows every night at dinner with my host mom. It is an odd feeling to miss a place that you have only known for a short time. I realized this feeling while walking the lit up streets of Rome and Barcelona and idly tiptoeing through the once lively metropolis of Pompeii: that no matter which new city I travel to, Italian or not, I will still miss my new home.Submitted by Caitlin, Abroad101 Global Ambassador in Sorrento, Italy