Tellus

Tellus: (tel’us), n. 1. [Latin] earth, soil, and the land; a country; the world. 2. a collection of Willamette University student’s insights, stories, photos and thoughts from their experiences studying abroad.

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Why I went abroad

I get off the bus in the middle of Vienna. All the signs are in German—I don’t speak German. I look at the string of letters on the street sign, look down at my map trying to find where I am, where I need to go. Problem with maps, though, is you need to know roughly where you are to even begin looking. I could be anywhere on that thing. No one is around me. I don’t have a phone. The bus is gone. I’m in the middle of a city where I don’t speak the language, by myself with no way to contact anyone and I only have loose directions to my hostel. Go.


I get off the bus in the middle of Vienna. All the signs are in German—I don’t speak German. I look at the string of letters on the street sign, look down at my map trying to find where I am, where I need to go. Problem with maps, though, is you need to know roughly where you are to even begin looking. I could be anywhere on that thing. No one is around me. I don’t have a phone. The bus is gone. I’m in the middle of a city where I don’t speak the language, by myself with no way to contact anyone and I only have loose directions to my hostel. Go.
* * *
Being abroad was an incredible experience. I’m not sure how I can translate it to words easily. The classes were easy, but sitting there listening to a professor talk about medieval Europe, especially the Irish influences, in his old Irish accent was amazing and made it worth while. I didn’t make friends with many other students, but hearing them say “mate” and other slang I’m not used to was at once jarring and familiar. Even just watching TV was a different experience—half the programs might be American, but the commercials and slight cultural alterations betrayed a much larger difference. In a lot of ways, it was surreal. It was America and it wasn’t.
This experience, though, comes in large part because I was in Ireland, an English speaking country that had a huge influence on America, and in turn America had a huge influence on it. Of all the places I visited, it was easily the most impacted by American culture.
However, what I learned most wasn’t from my time in Ireland, nor was that why I went abroad. The point of going abroad was to see the world, see other places. As someone who had only been to three countries (USA, Canada and Mexico) having the opportunity to explore more of the world…I had to take it.
So when my semester ended I traveled for five weeks. My goal was to see the world, so I did. And it was breathtaking. Riding a train from Florence to Rome was like traveling from two different worlds. From the Renaissance to Classical times. Edinburgh was different than Prague was different than Athens. And I learned about myself. I learned to rely on myself when things were hard. I learned to look out for myself. I learned to do all the detailed little planning that’s needed for something like this. It wasn’t until my mom pointed out how amazing it was that I could buy a train ticket in Vienna, make sure I know where the train is, get there on time and catch the train—all in another language.
For me in a lot of ways it was a semester of coming of age, of becoming a person of the world. I got an incredible number of experiences and stories from it, from the street performers in Florence to the ATVs on Santorini to getting lost in the back streets of Barcelona and Venice to just going shopping in Ireland. But more importantly I saw all of these cultures, I learned about all of these societies, and I watched how people lived in these places.
I grew as a person because I pushed myself to the extreme, further than I knew I could go. But I also grew as a person because I watched other people, other cultures and learned about the world. And that is why I went abroad.

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  1. 1 Comment(s)

  2.   By Hans Kruler on Feb 8, 2010 | Reply

    Hi Thomas,
    if you are interested in learning German you should have a look at this site, it really is the easiest way to learn another language.
    http://www.squidoo.com/Easiest-Way-to-Learn-German
    It would have made your trip so much better if you had learned some German before you went.
    Hans

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