Rachelle: Where did you go? What country and what program for how long? 

Emi: Ok, I went on the CAP Americano trip with Professors Ana de Brea and JP Hall and we went to Barcelona, Rome, and Paris. And the total time was about 3 weeks, a little under that, from May to June. 

Rachelle: What influenced your decision on which program you chose or what countries you went to? 

Emi: So, because I’m in CAP (College of Architecture and Planning) I tried to pick a program that was in CAP. So, this satisfied one of my architecture electives. And then I wanted to pick this one in particular because I always wanted to go to Europe, and I’ve never been able to before. There are a lot of monuments that I wanted to see and…yeah, honestly, that was the main drive. I’ve never been to Europe, and I really wanted to go. 

Rachelle: What were some of those monuments that you wanted to see? Did you get to see them? 

Emi: The one that I wanted to see the most was the Pantheon in Rome and yes, we did get to see it. I got very emotional because I was so excited. It’s still one of my favorite moments. But we also got to see the ruins in Rome, which was really cool. And then of course in Barcelona and Paris we had stuff by Gaudi and then of course the Eiffel tower which was bigger than I imagined. 

Rachelle: Right? I studied abroad in Japan and so for me, seeing those things that are so old. There’s so much history, I was like “this is older than my country.” That is insane to me so, I totally get what you’re saying with your monuments. What were some concerns that you had when you were thinking about studying abroad? 

Emi: I think just I was concerned in general about not being a bother to locals. I didn’t want to be that annoying tourist. I didn’t want to be disruptive at all. So, I tried to be very mindful while I was there, like of other people. I didn’t want to be in their way, just to be disruptive in general. Yeah, I think that was my main concern. I tried to keep up with how the locals were dressed as well. 

Rachelle: Did you do anything to prepare for that beforehand or was that just something like while you were there you kept your eyes open to kind of try to follow the locals?

Emi: Oh, I definitely prepared beforehand. I’m such a planner. 

Rachelle: So am I!

Emi: Before going to each country, I looked up what social etiquette things are, what locals expect people to do while they’re there. I learned that Rome is a very conservative city in terms of dress. So, before visiting any religious space you need to, especially women, need to be conscious about how much skin they’re showing because some places just don’t allow you to go in if too much is showing. I would look up things like that. Social etiquette in general. I do think it helped me out. I was just more prepared. 

Rachelle: Did the BSU professors do anything beforehand to help you prepare? Was this part of some classes and then you went abroad and then you finished up with some classes or…? 

Emi: We didn’t have classes, we had weekly meetings. Where we talked about the logistics of traveling abroad together and then Ana, she’s been to all these countries before, so she was just letting us know general costs and things, what we should bring. The basics. 

Rachelle: Smart. What did you like about your program? 

Emi: Ana and JP were really great at keeping it pretty open for exploration while also telling us little clips about the things we were seeing. My professor, Ana, had some connections in each country we went to, so we got to interact with people who actually lived there and hear what they had to say. We actually got to see some of their apartments to see what it was like to actually live there. So, that was really informative. They were really great about letting us explore throughout the day, so I feel like I got to see parts of the city that I wouldn’t have gotten to see otherwise. 

Rachelle: This experience of getting to see these monuments and seeing these apartments, how people live abroad. How do you think that impacted your degree or the way you view architecture, if at all? 

Emi: Well, first it was just cool to see cultures that I’ve never experienced firsthand before and then each city had its very own unique urban footprint. The way that people move throughout it based on the built environment, the layout, the culture itself. So, being able to see how each city had its own uniqueness and its own culture was really nice. Like within alleyways, how did those work or plazas, how the roads worked with pedestrians. It was all very different. 

Rachelle: Right? Yeah. When I also went to Japan, I saw some things that were done differently and it never even occurred to me that we could do this differently, that it was even an option. So, getting to see all the different options out there, it’s like “Oh! Maybe I should rethink this.” What is your favorite memory from abroad? 

Emi: I think my favorite architectural memory was being in the Pantheon. That was such a big moment for me. I think in general just traveling with other classmates was really fun. Like I’ve never really been able to do that because COVID, like, a lot of our CAP field trips were cancelled. So, I’ve only been on, I think, one major field trip, but that was just to Cincinnati. So, to be on like a real study abroad trip with other students my age was really fun because we got to just have fun in a different city and experience learning together. 

Rachelle: Do you have any funny or random memories from your time abroad?

Emi: I’d say the most chaotic one was in Rome. We signed up for a cooking class. But it was like the day before one of the major bike races in the city. So, I guess they were closing a lot of roads, and we couldn’t get a taxi and this place was like a 40-minute walk away from our hostel. And there was no way we were going to make it, so we went on those city scooters that only go 20 miles per hour. And it was a group of I think 5 of us and like Rome doesn’t allow the scooters on the sidewalk. So, we had to share the road with the cars, the buses, and mopeds and we could only go 20 miles per hour. So, we were like zooming on those scooters on the cobblestone streets. It was really bumpy. And I was so overwhelmed for the first couple of minutes. I was like “oh my god, I’m gonna die.” But we made it through, and it was definitely like a rush of adrenaline racing through. We had to zigzag through some of the cars. 

Rachelle: I mean, I bet all of the scooters and motorcycles that zigzag in between just that seems really chaotic and the fact that you can only go 20mph. I don’t know how fast everyone else was going on those streets, but that’s not very fast for normal roads, at least here. What was a challenge you overcame while you were abroad? 

Emi: I think in general, the language barrier was a challenge. I think our group did our best to at least know the very basics like when ordering, please, and thank you. You know, those things. But of course, our professor, Ana, she could get by, she could speak Spanish. She knows a little bit of everything. But, yeah, I think that was our biggest challenge and we just overcame it by doing our best and being lighthearted about it. 

Rachelle: Yeah, and honestly attitude is a really big play in that. And you guys have an interesting challenge because, again, you’re going to three different countries with three different languages. So, it’s not so much of like “Ok, I’m going to spend a month studying beforehand.” It’s more like “Ok, what are the basics that I need in each country?” What did you wish you knew before going abroad? 

Emi: I think maybe I wish I knew a little more phrases, just so I wasn’t floundering the whole time. 

Rachelle: Would you recommend going abroad to other students who are thinking about it and why? 

Emi: Oh, of course! Absolutely! Any student who’s able should because it’s truly an experience that you cannot replicate. Like you can see photos, you can watch videos, but it’s just not the same as being there. And you learn so much about the way people interact and the way those cultures work when you’re actually there. Also, it’s just a culturally enriching experience. It’s good to immerse yourself in other cultures that are not your own and other cities that you’re not familiar with. It’s a great step of adulthood. 

Rachelle: Yeah. I agree. I remember when I went, I came back and I was like “Wait, I did all this stuff. I know what I’m doing now.”

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