The following entry was written by Mary Quigley, class of 2015.
As winter break comes to a close and classes resume for the Spring, I’ve been thinking a lot about this semester and the fact that it will be a very different one for me. Why? I’m participating in Emerson’s Kasteel Well study abroad program based in the Netherlands. By the time you read this, I will be living and going to school in a country I have only ever seen on world news and in episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe!
Going to school in a different country far away from home is serious stuff for someone like me who grew up in the Boston area. In my first year and a half at Emerson, I’ve always had the option to go home any day in order to see my family and have a home-cooked meal. Moving to college wasn’t a big deal since I was only ten miles from the home I grew up in. So you can understand that shipping off to Europe for three months (without the option of a twenty minute commute standing between me and family) will be a highly unfamiliar situation.
The fact that I’m leaving the country really hit me on the last day of the Fall semester when I removed everything from my dorm room to make way for the replacement roommate. My Emerson friends all asked if I would see them before leaving. I assured them I would stop by our Piano Row residence hall one last time before getting on the bus to the airport. Even though I’ll be returning to Emerson just in time to spend the end of the school year with my friends, I still felt this unsettling sense of finality.
It continued during winter break: I was in a perpetual state of awareness about my upcoming trip. I got some travel guidebooks for Christmas and my relatives were asking me to show them Kasteel Well on Google Maps. My nerves about leaving for Europe started to mount. I felt like my inexperience with travel would hang over my head. To allay some of my worries, I asked a friend who went to the Castle the previous semester a million questions about saving money and what it was like to live with more than one other person. Everything works a little differently at the Castle campus and in Europe, so I forced myself to consider how every tiny detail of my day-to-day life would be different in the Netherlands.
The nervousness subsided as all my questions were answered and I began packing little by little. Now that the trip is so close and there’s no turning back, I’m excited and focused on the amazing opportunities I’ll have to experience countless new things. Having a break from the city appeals to me – I look forward to enjoying the fresh air and open space in Well, the quaint town where the Castle is nestled. Plus, the journalist in me is energized by the idea of adapting to foreign languages and lifestyles as an exercise in broadening my communication skills.
Though the culture is different and I’ll be on the other side of the ocean, the strength of the Emerson community is no less strong. I’m grateful for the familiarity of the 84 other Emersonians who will join me for class at the Castle, including a number of good friends. Here’s to my semester abroad forcing me out of my comfort zone and pushing my learning experiences to a whole new level!