The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday December 8th

Not all Tar Heels who wander are lost: study abroad brings introspection and adventure

Studying abroad has recently become a mainstay of the college experience. The Daily Tar Heel Staff Writer Cy Neff recently sat down with three Carolina students all studying abroad in Europe to see what the continent has to offer.

Sophomore Shai Nickerson had never been on a plane before she decided to hop on one to Greece for an entire semester. 

Having minimal travel experience before embarking on her journey, spending a half a year in a country where English isn’t the official spoken language might seem daunting. For Nickerson, studying abroad just felt like the right thing to do. 

“My major is global studies, and I’m really interested in global culture and politics, so it kind of made sense for me to go abroad,” Nickerson said. “I’d actually never traveled; I’ve never been on a plane so it was a huge step for my first trip to be all the way out to Greece.”

Nickerson is spending her spring semester in Athens, Greece. While she’s never been abroad before, she said that her desire to travel was born out of long road trips her family would take around the East Coast when she was a kid. 

“It’s been so amazing, like so much more than I could ever imagine. We just took our first field trip out to Delphi, and it was just so wonderful,” Nickerson said. “The mountains are so awe-striking and the ancient ruins are just incomparable, and it’s just so amazing to be somewhere where so much happened thousands of years ago.” 

Nickerson said that her expected culture shock has lessened by the English knowledge and friendliness of the locals. She’s in love with the food as well as the nightlife, and would wholeheartedly recommend study abroad to anybody. 

Sophomore Isabel Perry is taking classes on ceramics, art history and Italian in Florence. 

“In our art history classes, we go on a lot of field trips to different cities in Italy. Instead of class, we’ll do that. I’ve been to Pisa now and Bologna and the countryside of Florence,” Perry said. “That’s been awesome cause it’s allowed me to see a lot of new things that I might not have seen otherwise.” 

While Perry wishes that Florence had less tourist vibes, she said the friends she’s met in the first few weeks have encourage her adventurous side. Studying abroad has also allowed Perry to interact with a geographically diverse student pool.

“The people here are cool and  outgoing, and they’re from all over,” Perry said. 

Perry also discovered that differing social norms in Italy allow for a sort of unconventional bonding between instructors and students. 

“We were in Bologna on a field trip with my class, and my class is like ten people. And at the end of all the field trips, the professor would buy us like a snack or something before we  get on the train to come back,” Perry said. “Except this time she took us to a bar, and she got us all drinks.”

Junior Lydia Shiel’s reasons for going to Scotland weren’t especially profound. But now that she arrived, she’s happy she made the choice. 

“I’d never been to Scotland before, but my dad is a Scottish citizen so I was like ‘might as well check it out, might as well feel this place out, so that’s why I’m here,” Shiel said. 

Shiel feels less academically stressed abroad than at Carolina. Shiel traveled around Europe before beginning her study abroad in Edinburgh and has been living at a relaxed tempo since arriving in the city. Being alone in a foreign city has also offered Shiel much time to be introspective.

“There hasn’t been culture shock as much as there’s been the shock of we’re all really social creatures, and I have all this alone time and don’t have that many friends,” Shiel said. “So I do spend a lot of time by myself, and that’s where the majority of my adjusting has been.”

Shiel’s Scottish heritage also allows for her to feel a certain connection with the land that she’s voyaging abroad in, as well as forge ties with her childhood. For Shiel, exploring Scotland reveals broader swaths of the world as she becomes closer to herself.

“I’m excited to go to the countryside, because, hear me out, there’s a loch, or a lake, called Loch Shiel. Shiel’s my last name, as we previously discussed, and that is where they CGI’d Hogwarts,” Shiel said. “It’s the giant lake that Harry flies over when his broom goes wild, and that is what I want to go see immediately.”

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