Learning and loving abroad

By Elaine Chashy ’16

Managing Editor Abroad

My editor’s article from abroad happens to coincide with the halfway point of my time in Europe, so it will be the cliché “what I’ve learned so far abroad.” However, in my two months here I have learned a lot that I believe is worth sharing.

I quickly realized in Spain that embarrassment is inevitable, albeit unnecessary, since experience has taught me that the normal response is kindness. In the past two months I’ve fallen down stairs (I’ve actually fallen a lot, but marble is slippery and cobblestones are tricky), I’ve held up the bus line due to a combination of difficulty with my bus card and dropping all of my coins in the narrow aisle, I’ve obviously struggled with foreign languages and I’ve learned the hard way that sarcasm and humor are very difficult to translate.

Abroad is an interesting combination of humbling experiences and enabling moments. It is very empowering to be in a completely new place and be able to find your way. I admit I probably get too excited when this happens. Also getting lost is not a bad thing, because it either creates the opportunity to find new places or it will be a great story.

My roommate and I got off at the wrong bus stop in Venice, and instead of just waiting for the next bus, we tried to walk 22 minutes down the freeway to find our hostel, but five minutes in we realized we made a mistake and went back to wait for the next bus, laughing the whole way. The laughter is important, because negativity and travelling do not mix well. Negativity normally does not mix well with any aspect of life. Also, positivity and naiveté are two different things.

Time goes by quickly here, but I also have realized it goes by quickly back home. I noticed that while I’m here I feel pressure to do all of these exciting things, go to all of these places, and gather all these experiences, but why should that change upon return? I love this feeling that I need to take advantage of time, and that does not have to disappear just because I’m returning to a familiar place.

I’ve learned it’s important to make an active effort with every task and take advantage of time. Actively looking for new things to do, actively trying to explore: this activity should not be restrained to my time abroad. It is possible to have new adventures and leave my comfort zone in a familiar place. I don’t want my return to Ohio in two months to make me complacent with familiarity, nor lazy with the comfort of knowing the language, the area or the people.

It actually should not have taken me a semester in Spain to realize the importance of an active life, not just in academics or involvement, but also in appreciating the opportunities for growth offered in every setting. Denison alone offers a wealth of these opportunities, from art shows to speakers, and how often have I taken these options for granted? The embarrassment, the empowerment, the great stories and the adventure: none of these should be restricted to time abroad.