OPINION: How studying abroad leads to ‘journey’ of self-discovery

Nolan Hovell


During fall break, I spent my time visiting a friend abroad who is studying this semester in Alicante, Spain. In a quick eight days, I had the opportunity to visit three countries in Europe: Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. Locations I’ve only seen in film, monuments I’ve only ever explored in video games and food I’ve only tasted imitations of were all for the first time welcoming my senses and lifting my spirit.

The stressful week of completing future deadlines and settling any lingering concerns before leaving paid off the moment I saw the hills of Spain from my window seat on the plane.

Madrid was the first leg of my trip. People dressed as movie characters, street performers creating illusions and others going about their day made for a constant stream of life running through the streets lasting until the early morning. The nightlife in Spain was as loud and lively as tailgates on the Hill, possibly even more. A seven-story nightclub, each level with a different type of party and music, was unlike any club or event I had ever attended. Having a friend who spoke Spanish was a blessing that made me desire to brush up on that language so that, when I return to Europe, I will be able to speak for myself more fluently.

After a couple of nights, we flew into Italy. The most humbling moment of the trip was neither the many museums I had the pleasure of walking through nor the art and history that decorated every inch of wall space. It was the Duomo in Florence. Upon seeing the dome, the highest point in the city, I was brought to tears at the sheer beauty of such a structure. Once our tour made its way to the top, I then felt like a king. Such a unique mix of emotions has inspired me to write many poems about the sight.

Transportation is one of the biggest differences between American and European cities. People use public transportation, which tends to be fairly inexpensive. Travel between countries is accessible and common. In Amsterdam, about 30 percent of citizens bike to work. The street culture meant that it took far less time to get somewhere than in America. Europeans typically live close to work and school.

In Amsterdam, the buildings are close together, but the windows are made large so that furniture can be moved in through them. The economic use of space was common in each country. The hostels I stayed in tended to have rooms and areas set to accommodate large amounts of people in a smaller and more shared space. In our hostel rooms, anywhere from six to thirty people could sleep comfortably, always in bunk beds. Hostels are a cheap and, in my experience, safe places to rest while traveling through foreign countries.

My friend and translator, Kirk Vessels, whom I traveled with said, “I’ve found studying abroad to be a journey of self-discovery while learning and pushing my limits to become a more understanding person.” The more you know, and the more you see allows you to become a more empathetic and worldly person. This trip has helped me make my decision to study abroad through WKU. Hopefully this article will persuade others to do the same. There’s a big world outside of the United States just waiting to be experienced.