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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

An Artist's Semester in Italy

Italy to me was always a fairytale, synonymous with Alice in Wonderland or Cinderella. It was a story I would tell myself, a place I wanted to believe existed but could never really be sure of. Even after I had arrived in Italy it seemed to be a dream, another book into which I had inserted myself as a character, or a movie I was watching but couldn’t reach. I would run my hands along the dirty walls of Rome’s alleyways, breath in the richness of the local fare and convince my body and mind that what was happening was real. I was worried that once I returned to the States, it would be another experience enjoyed but forgotten. It didn’t take long for me to realize that those are the moments that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Trying to capture the full impact that Italy had on my life is impossible, the changes are multifaceted and forever multiplying. However there is something to be said about total immersion in another’s lifestyle. Everything, the way they speak, eat, travel, and view the world is so completely different from what I grew up with even though I come from a very Italian family. It forced me to open my mind to not only the ways of Italian living but the possible lifestyles of others around the globe. Simple things such as when they wake up in the morning, speak to how they approach the day, and encouraged me to question things I merely accepted in America. I’ve come back with a different set of priorities, and a new appreciation for my experience.

Living it Italy also greatly influenced my personal and artistic goals. Learning about great works of art in a textbook is so completely different from experiencing the real thing that I am nearly spoiled to classroom techniques. There before my eyes was the birthplace of incredible artistic talent and ideology. My artwork changed as a reaction to the old techniques with which I was surrounded, the many modern artists I was living with, and the approach locals had to the subject. Not to mention the professors in my program came from all over the U.S and all over Italy. I was exposed to a plethora of people in the field, and classes that are not available to me at Hartford. What I have seen can never be unseen, and can only add to my skill set.
I was somewhat disappointed to come back to the U.S after such an influential time abroad, but I do so with a new attitude and perspective. Whereas before I fell prey to the trivial worries of my day to day life, and the grind of school and work; I now approach it with a fresh set of eyes. I am able to compare the knowledge I gained in Italy to the things I learn here. I realize that everything I see and hear is a privilege, and  just one more thing to add to my repertoire. Usually, my personality tends towards the “grass is always greener” saying, where I am constantly looking to the next big experience. This trip provided moments that forced me to acknowledge that Italy is my greener. It has always been a desire to live and create in Italy but now it is a necessity.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Top 5 Do’s and Don’ts of Studying Abroad by Samantha Pulley

Top 5 Do’s and Don’ts of Studying Abroad
By Samantha Pulley
Samantha Pulley (Communication, '15) has spent two semesters studying off-campus: a semester at the University of Limerick (in Ireland) and a semester at American University (in Washington, D.C.).  Below, Samantha offers her expert travel advice to other UHA students embarking on a semester abroad/away experience!
1.      Do Pack lightly. Chances are, you’ll be carrying your own luggage to your destination. You don’t want to have to make multiple trips from the cab to your apartment or be sore the next day from carrying your bags. Also, extra room in your suitcase means more clothes and souvenirs you can bring back home with you.
Don’t pack things like toiletries and bedding. These things will take up too much space in your luggage and can easily be purchased at your local Primark and Dunnes if you’re in Europe.
2.      Do meet the other students in your group. Many of the students will be studying abroad for the first time, just like you. They will quickly become your best friends and you will be each other’s means of survival. Friendships like this don’t end after the study abroad experience is over. They grow stronger.
Don’t become so stuck in this new friend group that you forget to branch out and meet the locals. You chose to study abroad for a reason. The best way to get the full experience is by talking to people who live that life every day. They have an endless supply of advice for you and are usually willing to help guide you through your experience.
3.      Do travel while you are there. Travelling throughout Europe or any other continent is always cheaper when you are already there. Take advantage of that price cut and go EVERYWHERE.
Don’t forget to do your work and attend classes! Unlike many other schools, your grades will come back to the University as actual grades and not Pass/No Pass. While the grading system may look to be in your favor (for some countries, a 75 or higher is considered an A), remember that the criteria for an A does not change. You get the grade you work to earn. Don’t forget that.
4.      Do post lots of pictures. If your friends are anything like mine, they will be living vicariously through the pictures you post. Also, you’re going to need some pictures to enter into the [UHA Study Abroad] photo contest at the end of your time abroad.
Don’t spend too much time using social media. You are in another country, enjoy it! You don’t need to be constantly reminded of everything going on in the States. You will get caught up when you return home. Designate a specific time once a week to Skype your family, then Leave. Them. Alone.
5.      Don’t waste your time. It’s completely normal to feel homesick, but you have to push through that and do something! While 4 months may seem long at first, it flies by so quickly.
Do say yes to everything (but still use your common sense)! What are the chances you’ll be invited to skydive over Ireland, go bungee jumping in Prague or climb the Great Wall of China again?  So say yes. Yes it will be scary, yes you’ll want to back out, but that’s what makes studying abroad so amazing. It forces you to push past those fears, grab life by the reins and live it.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Malorie Casimir Studies Vocal Performance in Vienna, Austria

Malorie Casimir ('15) is a junior studying  Vocal Performance at the University of Hartford.  Malorie is spending an academic year abroad studying music in Vienna, Austria.  Below, she reflects on her fall semester in Vienna.

In Fall 2013, I studied abroad in Vienna, Austria with IES Abroad.  This was probably one of the most important and valuable decisions I will ever make.  I chose to study abroad in Vienna because of its rich history in classical music.  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the most important composers of classical music, spent the most crucial points of his career in Vienna.  When I decided that I wanted to study in Vienna, I sat down with my advisor at Hartt and my study abroad advisor to see if it was possible.  When I found out it was, I made my travel plans and went abroad!

By living in Vienna, I was exposed to life from a different perspective.  The standard of living is a lot higher and the social etiquette is a lot different than it is in America.  For example, as a New Yorker, I am susceptible to apologizing profusely for casually nudging someone on the train.  In Vienna it is common to nudge people, even violently, to exit or enter the train.  Not maliciously of course, but just to get where they need to go.  From this experience, I learned not to be offended by someone violating my personal space on public transportation because it is bound to happen anyway.
I appreciated the level of safety in Vienna.  Coming home made me suddenly feel very unsafe because in Vienna, I didn’t have to be as attentive to my surroundings (I didn’t do anything reckless of course)!  When preparing to study abroad, I didn’t expect Vienna to be as safe as websites and brochures stated.  I’ve never felt safer than my time in Vienna.  I called it home within the first few days, which is a transition that usually takes a few weeks for me.

As a result of this newfound security, I opened up and formed a very strong bond with my roommates; six of whom were sopranos.  Upon hearing that six of my roommates were singers, I panicked and thought it would be a semester full of loud singing and dramatic outbursts.  Yes, there was loud singing often, but it’s now a part of some of my dearest memories!
Studying in Vienna has had a significant impact on my professional goals. Once again, I chose to study here because I’m a Vocal Performance major aspiring to be an opera singer and Vienna is considered by many to be the classical music capital of the world.  I frequent the Vienna State Opera where I can get standing room tickets every night for 3 or 4 Euros.  Seeing professionals perform on one of the most prestigious stages in the world has enriched my knowledge of opera.  I have explored many different technical and vocal styles and I learn something new every time I go!


When I return to the University of Hartford, I will be a changed individual.  I will have seen and experienced things that I would never have experienced if I hadn’t studied abroad.  I am convinced that study abroad should be a mandatory component of everyone’s degree.  It is a life-changing experience that will go unparalleled.  I would like to thank Gladys and Robert Dunn, Lynn Wronker and Robert Barefield at Hartt and Susan Carey at the Study Abroad Office for making this dream a reality.
Interested in studying abroad like Malorie?  Contact the Study Abroad Office (GSU 328) for more information.  You can also visit our official website: or email Susan Carey:

Monday, February 10, 2014

Alumni Update: Miles Aron on a Fulbright in Switzerland!

Miles Aron ('13) graduated with a B.S.E in Engineering–Acoustical Engineering and Music. He is currently in Switzerland on a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Zurich. His research project focuses on treating brain diseases and cancer with enhanced drug delivery methods using ultrasound. After his year as a Fulbright Scholar, Miles will head to England where he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at Oxford University as a recipient of the Martin Scholarship. 

Hiking in Apenzeller Range of the Alps in Switzerland.

Why did you apply for the Fulbright in Switzerland?

The research I am doing is only happening in a couple labs around the world and the Interface Group here at University of Zurich does excellent work. Also, I wanted a chance to live in Europe and broaden my perspective. Switzerland is ideal for its location at the center of Europe, the fact that almost everyone speaks English, the beautiful landscapes (I can see the Alps from my balcony), and the rich history of scientific research.

You mentioned to UNotes that this is the first time you have traveled overseas, what do you think about it so far?

Europe is really special. In the US there are differences from state to state but in the same distances here, the differences are much larger. From country to country there are entirely different cultures, languages, attitudes, foods etc...

My initial impressions of Zurich:
It is exceptionally clean, there are many rules but they are generally fair and make life better for people, everything is about twice as expensive as the US, it is extremely safe, the public transportation is so fast, timely, and well-organized that there is no need for a car at all, people are not as warm at first but they tend to be very nice and helpful and once you make friends they are very loyal. It is customary to cross the street in front of oncoming traffic and the cars will stop without getting mad (unless you are downtown). In Zurich, you can only throw out trash in special bags that are very expensive and as a result people recycle almost everything. To prevent drug addicts from congregating in parks as outcasts of society, they give the addicts drugs at the hospital, keeping them off the streets until they get better. College costs about $600 a semester. UZH and ETH Zurich are on the list of top schools in the world, so that price to quality ratio is really impressive. It is required to have health insurance here so people are all pretty healthy and there are almost no poor people. The fast food is much better with all the street food, winter markets, and Turkish Kebab joints. At the movies, you reserve a ticket and choose your seats before hand. They have more food, beer and wine in the theater and half way through the movie there is a 15 minute intermission. Everyone smokes cigarettes. Almost everyone speaks at least 3 languages fluently. Swiss German is so different from high German that most Germans can't even understand it but I am trying to learn high German regardless. Drinking alcohol in public is legal. Bars and clubs stay open all night into the next day. Eating out is impossibly expensive but tip is always included. Local food includes raclette (like grilled cheese with potatoes and pickles but don't tell the Swiss that ;) ), fondue (chocolate, cheese, and hot broth based), gluhwein (hot wine with spices), pumpkin, bratwursts with spicy mustard, rivella (milk whey drink), and leckerli (addictive and delicious cookies here). Water is usually sparkling and the cheapest chocolate you can find is really better than anything I've had in the US.

I say initial impressions because over the last 2 years I have moved about every 4 months from CT to CA to CT to CA to MA and then to here. Now that I have been here for longer than I have lived anywhere for a while, this place is really feeling like home. I love it here and I am excited for England, but it will also be hard to leave this place.
On a boat on Lake Luzern in Switzerland.

Tell us a little bit about the research that you are doing in Switzerland?

There is a barrier between the blood in your body and your brain that keeps bad substances out. It turns out that this blood-brain barrier also keeps drugs out that could be used to treat brain cancer and brain diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. Around 2006 Dr. McDannold's group at Harvard made a breakthrough with delivering drugs through this barrier using ultrasound and microbubbles. With focused ultrasound, they excite the microbubbles of a standard ultrasound contrast agent to contract and expand in the micro-capillaries of the brain. The motion of these bubbles somehow opens the barrier temporarily without damaging the surrounding tissue.

My research is to determine exactly how and why this technique works by creating experiments that separate the effects of the oscillating microbubble in the brain. To give you an idea of the difficulty of this task, my experiment will take one hundredth of a second, has components that are a millionth of a meter in size, moving parts that oscillate at a quarter million times per second, and optics at the diffraction limit of light itself, tenths of a millionth of a meter. My hope is to help bring this very promising technique to the clinic. I have discussed my project with experts in the field at the hospital here in Zurich, at Boston University, and at Oxford, where I will continue next year, and they are all as excited as I am about it.

What are a couple of the highlights from your experience so far in Switzerland?

Oktoberfest in Munich, hiking in the Alps, riding vespas around the canals in Amsterdam at night, Thanksgiving song-writing with my uncle in Berlin, spending time with the other Fulbrighters in Prague, Christmas and a Hungarian music festival in Budapest, going to the opera in Vienna and in Budapest, New Years in Vienna, Mt. Rigi in Luzern, the winter market in Konstanz, sitting at Einstein's desk where he wrote his theory of relativity in Bern, going to the art film club, iceskating on a terrace with gluhwein (hot spiced wine), seeing my favorite jazz musicians in Zurich, playing guitar at the local jam session etc...

 On Mt. Rigi in Luzern.

How different has the experience been from what you expected?

Before I got here, I really had no idea what Europe and Switzerland would be like. I knew it would be an amazing experience but in my mind it was like some sort of dream. This has been a period of growth for me, I think. I was also surprised by how it changed my perspective of the US. I have a better understanding of what we do backwards now but I also have an even larger love for the US.

What has been your favorite new experience so far?

It's hard to say. I was really blown away by much of what I've seen and experienced here. Here's one moment that left an impression:

I was with a group of Fulbrighters on the night train on our way home from Vienna. One of the girls in our group got really sick on the trip. The train stopped two stops before Zurich's main station and a woman and her daughter got off the train. Then, just before the doors closed the little girl tugged on her mother's coat to come back onto the train because it was the wrong stop. The mother was so upset that she had almost missed that last train home and got stranded with her daughter in the middle of the night, that she started crying. Her daughter was smiling really big saying "it's ok mom but that was the wrong stop." Then the mother noticed our friend looking really sick and wiped her tears and started gently rubbing the back of my friend's neck and caressing her hair above the ear for the rest of the journey. Something about this near-hysterical woman being saved by her daughter and then using her motherly touch on our sick friend to make her feel better was really striking. Neither the girl or mother could speak English but I asked if everything was okay to the little girl in German and she laughed and said "Alles gut."

Tell us about daily life in Switzerland.

Zurich is a small city with the center along the beautiful Lake Zurich and the Alps in the distance. I live a couple blocks up the hill that runs to the lake in a very coveted location. I live with a Thai guy, Slovak girl, Romanian girl and a Mexican girl, all graduate students or post-docs at the university. Everyday I ride the tram to my lab and work on my research for the day. I try to go to the cycling class on Mondays, jazz jam session on Wednesdays, and the film club on Fridays. There are also international student events almost every week that I frequent as they are the best way I've found to meet people and make friends. For fun I travel as much as I can. There are endless new places to see and things to experience here. I'm planning to go to Rome in a couple weeks =). Through a mutual friend in the US, I also met a Swiss guy here who has made it his mission to show me the best that Zurich has to offer. He gets me guest-listed to the best night-life events in Zurich pretty regularly.

What words of advice would you give to other UHart students thinking of applying to Fulbright?

Start researching and contacting people to be your sponsor the summer before. Do many revisions of the proposal. I am generally confident about my writing ability, but my Fulbright essays got torn apart and rewritten more times than anything else I've written. It is important to use the resources of the International Center at the university and to have people critique your drafts. Without the generous help of Dr. Don Jones and Sarah O'Leary I simply wouldn't be here.

 With some Fulbrighters in Prague, Czech Republic.

Any other thoughts you want to add?

The Fulbright has been an incredible life experience. Even rambling the way I did here, it is impossible to convey what it is like to actually live in a foreign country. I can't recommend it enough to any fellow Americans who are willing to work hard and are eager to see the world.

I'll also add that while I've been researching and whatnot here I have also taken on a project with some friends from the US. I am very excited about this. We have created a unique website for learning Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics by asking questions and watching answers in the form of 1 minute videos. The idea is that learning STEM can be a creative and enjoyable endeavor. The hope is that it will make online learning feel more human and that it will meet the unique learning needs of the individual student while engaging the community as a whole. The site is completely free, advertisement free, and there are no memberships or signing up. It is free and open to everyone and anyone can ask a question or submit a video answer. You can find the website, STEMbuds, here:

Friday, February 7, 2014

Megan Johnson: Break Out of the Bubble

Megan Johnson ('14) is a senior studying Visual Communication Design at the Hartford Art School.  Last fall, Megan spent the semester abroad at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design  in London, England.

One of my last projects of my semester abroad was called The Bigger Picture. Students from product design, ceramic design, architecture, and every field of graphic communication design came together to work on group projects. We listened to a series of lectures from fields that didn’t directly relate to art or design. Broken into smaller groups we created our own lecture series about how bigger world wide issues were imperative to absorb as an artist. 
On the day of final presentations, I was kept awake by the constant mention of the United States. Our failing health care system was a common example of what can happen when people fail to see the bigger picture in life. The discussion of the American Health Care system among college students surprised me. We were in England, and most of my peers at Central Saint Martins were from all over the world, and spoke at least two languages fluently. However, they spoke with more passion than some American leaders do. Everyone I met while abroad knows all about America, and I can’t even begin to pretend that I know anything about their country. 

As my time living in the UK came to an end, I decided that the most important thing that I learned while being away from anything normal and being a tourist in five different countries, is that everyone lives in a bubble, and the American bubble is suffocatingly small. 
In the United States, there are different sized bubbles that people live in. The smallest would be people that are always on facebook and buzzfeed and don’t watch the news and say they don’t read. But even of if people  are genuinely passionate about learning new things and feel involved in society, the United States government has filtered all of our available information. Everything we learn in public school, everything we see on the news, every movie we watch, is filtered by the government. This controls our culture as a whole, all of our traditions, values, and beliefs. 

When I say that everyone lives in a bubble, I’m not trying to be cynical. It's only natural that similar people develop similar beliefs. No one can ever learn a different perspective unless they get on the outside of that bubble. 
How does an entire nation decide if something is right or wrong? How was Hitler given the power to kill 11 million people 70 years ago? 70 years ago seems like a long time to an American, whose country is only 300 years old, but in Europe, WWII was yesterday. There are still bullet holes. There are still ruins. I touched them.  
Everyone lives in a bubble. No matter how big it is, everything you’re exposed to is curated by your culture’s history and it’s authorities. Get away from it. If more people had the opportunity to live in a different country for 3 months, we could prevent a war.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Alumni Update: Stass Shpanin on a Fulbright in Russia

Stass received his B.A. in Painting (’12) from the Hartford Art School.  After graduation he spent a year in Russia as a recipient of the prestigious Fulbright Student Award. While there, Stass explored archives, interviewed historians and surrounded himself with the memories and events of pre-World War I imperialistic Europe.  As a result, Stass had the chance to develop a new body of work representing the history of Russia that was lost during the Communist Revolution and two world wars. More recently, Stass was invited to participate at the 7th Annual International Arts Festival in Moscow at Russia’s Central House of Artists.  “It’s just one of a few opportunities that came about as a result of my participation in the Fulbright program,” says Stass.  Below, Stass reflects on his experience as a Fulbrighter in Russia.

How has your experience as a Fulbrighter in Russia enhanced your career path? 
It’s a great opportunity to become part of the one of the most prestigious scholarship communities in the United States. All my life I have been interested in history, and more importantly, how to represent social narratives and memory. I’m interested in personal and public representations of history, and how objects can denote the past. While spending a year in Russia on a Fulbright fellowship, I conducted extensive archival research, examining photographs, artifacts, and architecture. I had a chance to develop a new body of work that represents remaining layers of different political and cultural eras.

Has it provided you with new opportunities?
I had a chance to meet interesting people in Moscow from the artistic and academic communities. I am still in a very good contact with my supervisor at the Surikov Instute of the Russian Arts Academy – Vice-president of the Russian Arts Academy, Mr. Salahov. As a result of my artistic research at the institution, I’ve been invited to participate at the 7th International Arts Festival in Moscow at the Russia’s Central House of Artists. These are just a few examples of the opportunities that came about as a result of my participation in the Fulbright program.
How has your artistic work changed since your journey in Russia began in Fall 2012?
My artistic development was very surprising, even for me. Based at the Surikov Institute of the Russian Arts Academy, I had a chance to witness remaining parts of the older Soviet academic system. Today, unfortunately, this system is very self-concentrated and has a very limited access to the international art community. Therefore, it was a greater responsibility on my part to provide as much information as possible about new ideas present in the artistic community in the United States. As an artist in this very traditional system, I felt obligated to work on new ideas and on more conceptual artworks. I am still working with the ideas of history, memory and society; however, my work is less literal and more ambiguous.  

We hear you are back in Russia and working on some new projects. Can you tell us a little about it?
I am currently in Russia working on several projects. First of all, I am planning to teach collaborative classes to Masters students at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I think it’s going to be a great experience and I look forward to seeing the outcomes of these art projects created by scientists. Besides that, I am planning an ambitious project at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art in Spring 2014.

Mocsow in the winter.

What are a couple of the highlights from your time so far in Russia?
Russia has a wonderful culture with historical traditions and paradigms. I had a chance to visit premier ballet plays at Bolshoi Theatre and Mariinsky Theatre. They are considered to be among the most important opera and ballet theaters in the world. It was wonderful to visit different historical places and participate in large receptions (like one at the US Ambassador's residence in Russia – Spasso House).

 Stass at Spasso House
How different has the experience been from what you expected?
I had no expectations of what Russia was going to be like or what to expect from the Fulbright. I was eager to start my endeavors in Russia and to have a wonderful time full of great experiences and discoveries. I tried to not create great expectations and then feel unsatisfied; on the other hand, I wanted to be surprised, amazed and astonished.

What has been your favorite new experience so far?
It’s really hard to highlight just one new experience. I think the whole process of living abroad and working on different ambitious projects is very fascinating for me. I would like to continue this experience, and as an artist I want to work on different international projects both abroad and in the United States. It was a great opportunity provided by the Fulbright program and the US Embassy in Russia to receive access to the top figures in the artistic community of Russia. Meeting museum directors, chief curators and collectors of contemporary art and exchanging ideas and beliefs is an exceptional new experience. 
Stass at Pishkin
Tell us about daily life in Russia.
While on the Fulbright project, I was renting an apartment in Moscow. Moscow is one of the most expensive cities in the world. It’s very similar to New York City with identical dynamics and lots of traffic on the roads. While renting this apartment I was commuting by subway to my host institution. It took me about 40 minutes door to door. With a similar lifestyle to NYC, Moscow has a lot to offer for fun and entertainment. It has wonderful theaters, galleries, restaurants and bars for every taste and budget. Moscow has a large American community and there are some authentic American restaurants and bars owned by Americans. 

US Ambassador to Russia, Mr. McFaul and Stass

Stass and the President of the Russian Arts Academy, Mr. Tsereteli at the US Ambassador's residence in Russia- Spasso House

What words of advice would you give to other UHart students thinking of applying to Fulbright? 
Just do it. 

Interested in studying, interning or doing research abroad?  Contact Susan Carey in the Study Abroad Office for more information: or visit our website:

Monday, February 3, 2014

Jessie McGinn Reflects on a Semester Abroad in Germany

To say that my time abroad taught me more than I could ever learn in a traditional semester of school is an understatement. If that sounds a bit cliché and stereotypical, then let me explain in greater detail because my time abroad was also unlike anything I ever thought it would be. It was a whirlwind of joy, fear, anxiousness, excitement and wonder. It taught me more about myself as person, my needs, my learning style, my ability to cope and learn new things, the list just goes on and on. I should start from the beginning to make sure that everything is clear. I chose my program because it was a chance to do things on my own. It wasn't a structured program and I was a student at the university just like any other German would be. It really did appeal to me prior to departure but little did I know that no matter how much I read about or anticipated my arrival, nothing really could prepare me for what I was about to face. This was my very first flight and my very first time in a foreign country. I arrived in Zurich and I was completely overcome by a sense of paralyzing fear and excitement. Finding my way to Freiburg and navigating the trains was another accomplishment entirely and sometimes I look back and wonder just how exactly I made it. It felt like I was in a dream for the first day, I couldn't believe my journey was about to start.
My first week abroad was met with terrible homesickness and I began to think that I'd never like it here [in Germany], I wanted nothing more than to come home. A tip to keep in mind for future students, it is completely normal and it will pass but in that time when it feels like nothing can go right it can be hard to see the amazing chances right in front of you. Eventually through the support of my family, friends, boyfriend, program directors and even a bit of professional help here in Freiburg, I began to adapt and enjoy my study abroad experience. I began to immerse myself in the language, which in itself is a huge thing I gained from my time abroad, began to explore the city and the region and made some of the best friends I've ever had. I learned to adapt during my time abroad, I needed to have a style of living much different than what I was used to. It forced me to step out of my comfort zone to talk to locals and other international students. It also made me look at the education system differently because I had a mix of classes in size, style of teaching and even language. These are things I never could have done at my home university. Through my time here, I not only had the chance to explore my new home country of Germany but I got to make an international visit that I still think about to this day. I met a girl from Spain who had a dream to go to Ireland so another American friend of mine and I teamed up to make this happen. So many people had supported and helped me in my dream to go to Germany and I am always grateful for that so this was my chance to give back to someone. We found a way to get there that we could all afford and it was in a word, magical. It made me realize how big this world is and how little, up until this point, I've seen of it. It gave me a lust for travel and exploration and I saw so many beautiful things in Ireland/Dublin, including a sunset that was the most amazing thing I'd seen thus far. This was quite possibly the best experience I'd had while abroad.
Aside from my adventures traveling and seeing the cities of Germany and Switzerland, I also had to focus on school and daily life in my new home country. Everything become a bit a challenge, shopping for food and everyday products became a time for translation and the steps that I needed to take in order to gain the necessary things to live in my new host city was always a challenge. I had a particular moment of pride when I went alone to my city's Buergeramt (Citizen Services Building) to apply for my residency card. It was a bit scary because I spoke only in German with things that were quite technical but when I was presented with the card, I couldn’t help but know that I did it alone and that I was on my way to having things figured out. I gained that skill from being abroad as well, self-dependency. I had to do everything for myself and learn to live without physical help from my parents or RA's in a dorm setting and it made me become very independent. I think this will well prepare me for real world when I return home as I am planning to get an apartment off-campus next year.
Throughout the nearly five months I've spend here, I've had so many good times with friends. I've gotten to travel, see things I've only seen in pictures, try local food, meet amazing people and I wouldn't have changed a thing about the experience. Even when everything wasn't perfect it was still something that I will always remember for the rest of my life; it has given me a broader sense of the world, allowed me to make connections with people around the globe, as well as provided me with an edge when searching for a job because I now have a quality that makes me stand out among the crowd (as well as the language skills to prove it).  I've learned so much about myself as an individual; the types of learning environments that work for me, how to push myself to do things that I never thought I would do, just how much I actually am capable of doing. I also learned how to budget money while abroad and think about things like insurance, rent and other costs. This journey not only gave me an amazing sense of the real world but it opened my eyes to an entirely different culture than the one I lived in for nearly 20 years. I am incredibly happy with the choices I've made and I really hope to continue the path of learning German and intercultural participation that I had in Europe.

In looking towards the future and upon returning home from my study abroad, I am eager to be involved with the study abroad alumni group at my university so that I can pass on the wisdom and things I learned abroad to those prospective students who are looking to do the same. In addition to that, my time in Europe has inspired me to start looking into Masters/Doctorate programs here for when I complete my bachelor’s degree at Hartford. I found the culture here to be inviting, and although I will be returning home in about two weeks, this is not the last time I will see Europe by any means; it is thanks to the tremendous amount of support and help I was given along to way to make this dream a reality.

Jessie McGinn ('16) is a sophomore majoring in Biochemistry at the University of Hartford.  Jessie has been studying abroad in Freiburg, Germany for the past 5 months.