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The Daily Tar Heel

Satire: Tips for returning from your semester abroad

Michael Jones pours beer from a tap at Goodfellows on Sept. 28, 2022.

I touched down on American soil in mid-May, after four months of studying abroad in Barcelona. Everything was different.

As I would soon explain to friends, family, or anyone who would listen, my experience abroad was a blur of new faces and Vueling seat buckles. It was that first bite of patatas bravas, the time I passed the cathedral while a man in a scarf serenaded the square with something that felt like a love song. It was my 10 roommates, nude beaches, a bloody elbow after cliff jumping, leaving the club at 5 a.m. and wondering what was next.

But while I daydreamed about patatas bravas in the Atlanta airport, my friends back in Chapel Hill were experiencing another day of mid-70s temperatures — with finals completed, Nike shorts on and maybe some hopes of sneaking into the Lark Chapel Hill pool. 

I’m sure they had a fun semester. They probably went to basketball games and studied in Davis (I knew a guy in Barcelona named Davis). I’ll ask them about their semester, eventually. But for now, as far as I’m concerned, the priority is ensuring that my friends don’t forget that I studied abroad.

If you're in a similar boat, here's how I'm doing exactly that:

Refer to the P2P as “the tube” or "the metro"

It’s not our fault public transit is mostly nonexistent in the United States. If you studied abroad, you’re used to sleek, timely trains, dingy subway stations and hopping turnstiles. The P2P may not have turnstiles, but it certainly has seats you can jump over if you’re craving a rush of adrenaline. 

Better yet, you can pretend the blacked-out first years around you are just cool Europeans who had a little too much red wine during their four-hour lunch break.

Ensure all roads (conversations) lead to Rome (or anywhere else in Europe)

This one is a post-study abroad classic.

Any conversation – and I mean ANY conversation – can be brought back to your study abroad experience. Your friend just got a new girlfriend? You can tell him you were with “a broad” too. (If he doesn’t understand the pun, be sure to explain it. Maybe grab a pen and paper to spell it out).

Someone wants to dance with you at Still Life? Be sure he knows you once danced with a 6-foot-4-inch Norwegian man at a techno show in Berlin. 

Attribute not tipping your bartenders to reverse culture shock

You grab a couple of picklebacks at Goodfellows, and when the bartender hands you the receipt, you sign it and hand it right back to him. Your friends, still fumbling over their calculator apps or doing drunken mental math, raise their eyebrows at your speedy transaction. “How much did you tip?” they might ask you. Here you can shrug and avert eye contact mysteriously.

“In Europe, no one tips. No servers or waiters or bartenders are kissing ass for a couple of extra dollars," you might say. "It’s a no-bullshit transaction, and if we all just stopped tipping, everyone would be happier.” (You’re speaking loudly and your friends seem embarrassed by your edgy and bold stance, but you pretend not to notice, because you’re edgy and bold and just studied abroad.)

Go topless in the Lark pool

What, this isn’t like the nude beaches of Mallorca? I really have to wait for the LDOC streak to get naked?

Layer lots of clothes (except at the Lark pool, of course)

On any given 68-degree day in October, you should have on the following items: a sweater, wide leg pants from Zara, a long black or tan peacoat (from Zara), a wool scarf, sunglasses that hide your eyes just enough (you can find those at Zara) and a crossbody bag or small purse. 

I don’t care that it’s extremely hot in your psychology lecture hall. I don’t care that removing all that clothing is considered ‘disruptive to your classmates.’ Your psychology professor has never been to Europe and it shows. In fact, I bet he still tips his bartenders.

So, to all my fellow students who peaked in study abroad and want to prolong that feeling of superiority, I hope you find this list useful. 

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In addition to the aforementioned tips, you can also get a study abroad tattoo, ask for water with "gas" at restaurants, say "ciao" when you leave a room, accidentally pay for something in euros, put "previously, (enter study abroad country)" in your Instagram bio, insist on using Whatsapp for all of your group chats and attend trivia night at Linda’s Bar and Grill so you can attribute every answer you get correct to your time abroad. 

Your friends in Chapel Hill can’t wait to have you back.