We asked and you answered! In the last installment of Q&A, we asked:
What was your most amazing adventure while abroad?
When was “the moment” when everything coalesced and you felt the most alive you have ever felt? What weekend trips should students who study abroad after you ABSOLUTELY go on? What was the adventure that made your experience for you?
Here are their answers:
I’d never been more alive than I was climbing the Austrian Alps. I had been planning it for four years, and Spring Break during my study abroad with ISA in Paris, I decided to visit Austria by myself and immerse myself in two of life’s most beautiful things: nature and music. I spent the first few days exploring the cities of Mozart, my absolute favorite composer, and got lost in the culture. Then, I went to my favorite city on earth–Zell am See, Austria. The snow was just melting, and the paths were starting to clear, but as the climb went higher, I reached a point where the snow was still as deep on the path as it was in Winter. Against my better judgment, I decided that I did not plan for four years, leave my country, travel over an ocean, and traipse through several other countries to NOT make it to the top. It took a ruined pair of boots, soaked clothing, and all the energy I could muster, but after a 6 hour hike, I made it. I stood alone, on top one of Austria’s highest peaks. How could I feel any more alive?
-Josh Valdez, Paris, France, Spring 2014
Overall, South Africa offers so much and it’s hard to pick one moment that has made me feel alive here, because truthfully it all has. South Africa in itself has been my biggest adventure. If I had to pick, my favorite moments include going on spontaneous outdoor adventures like hiking and surfing day trips, bungee-jumping off of the highest commercial bungee bridge, canoeing and swimming in waterfalls in Wilderness, and experiencing African wildlife in their natural habitats. These experiences and many more have made my time in South Africa an unforgettable adventure.
-Aleksandra Deptula, Cape Town, South Africa, Spring 2015
I suppose it should not have been surprising to get peculiar looks from my international friends when I admitted that my spring break would consist of a backpacking trip through Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Although not the most conventional destinations for #SpringBreak2015, these countries indeed made for quite the two-week long adventure. It commenced with four girls packed into a rental car, trekking through the Carpathian Mountain Range in the Romanian countryside, dedicated to explore Dracula’s Castle and conquer hills topped with medieval citadels. Flash-forward to Sofia, Bulgaria, a tourist-free city where we unpredictably starred in a Bulgarian TV Show and swing-danced to 60s music in an underground music warehouse. Top it all off with the vibrant markets, stunning mosques, and completely outrageous (and impulsive) traditional “Turkish Bath” we took in Istanbul, Turkey. I can conclusively say that I will never be able to top that spring break.
It is near impossible to choose a moment that MADE my time in New Zealand, but there is one that comes to mind. Two friends from my program and I were in Christchurch for the All Blacks Rugby game. There was such a large crowd to get in that barely we got through the gates as the national anthem was being played. So there we were, running through a pounding rain, surrounded by Kiwis, with the swell of the crowd singing the anthem. And as we ran, I remember thinking that these are the kind of moments you can’t plan, but only hope to discover.
And of course, the All Blacks won that night.
-Nikki Fabrizio, Dunedin, New Zealand, Spring 2013 (now Alumni Relations Coordinator at ISA)
The whole experience itself is the most amazing thing, but if I really had to choose one moment it would be the weekend I spent in Florence and Milan. While in Florence, we got to drive up to the Tuscany region of Chianti for a private wine tasting tour with a dinner. The view from the castle were they produce the wine was absolutely breathtaking. It was definitely magical.
We went for Milan Fashion Week to attend a fashion show, and we got to meet designers, fashion bloggers, models, etc. It was a dream come true for any girl that loves fashion.
That weekend happened too fast because of how much I was enjoying myself. Each night, I believe I had about 4 hours of sleep due to traveling, but it was so incredible and so worth it. Fine wine, fashion, friends, history, and art all added up to one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Sometimes I can’t believe that I actually lived it, and it’s so nice to have so many pictures of these cool memories.
-Angela Esquerra, Rome, Italy, Spring 2015
For me, the most amazing adventure of my study abroad happened the weekend before I left. All my life I had wanted to go to Mendoza, Argentina. That weekend, I crossed it off my bucket list. I was nervous before I went for a couple reasons: 1. I had built it up so much in my mind, I was afraid of being disappointed. and 2. This was my first time traveling solo in a foreign country.
Neither fear came to fruition. Mendoza was every bit as amazing as I thought. I spent the first day traversing the different markets and leather shops. I finished the day with some of the best steak I have ever had. I was so proud that I was competent and comfortable enough with my Spanish that I could communicate with the locals! The second day was even better. I took a horseback ride in the Andes at sunset.
I tell you what, there is nothing more amazing than seeing the sunset over the majestic Andes mountains.
We finished the great evening with an asado dinner while we all watched the Argentina World Cup game. On the way back to the hostel everyone was dancing and blowing horns in the streets to celebrate an Argentina win. It is truly an experience I will never forget. I am blessed to check off such an amazing adventure off my bucket list.
-Brett Martinez, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Summer 2014
When I studied with ISA in Sevilla, my intercambio invited me to join her family on their annual day trip to Estepa. We arrived in this charming town and discovered that this was the holiday candy superpower of Spain! Factories and their retail storefronts lined the streets. We toured colorful factories reminiscent of Willy Wonka. We devoured all of the free samples from each storefront — chocolate covered oranges, mantecados, polvorones, turrón, you name it! Then, we loaded up the car with candies by the kilogram; another year’s supply ready for all the celebrations to come.
-Brandon Oddo, Sevilla, Spain, Fall 2009 (now Italy Program Manager at ISA)
Adventures abroad are partially about where you go and what you’re doing, and partially about who you’re with. During my short time abroad, I found a solid group of friends that I hung out with most of the time. We once took a short day trip on our own to a small town just outside of Galway, and while we weren’t able to do much while we were there, the company made the adventure worthwhile. Find some good friends, and just explore around your city while you’re there. Simply experience the culture and make memories with wonderful people, and the adventure will find you. Something as simple as riding a bus to the next town or going out for local cuisine in the city you’re staying in can turn into the adventure of a lifetime, and one that you’ll look back on and smile about for years to come.
-Danielle Bryant, Galway, Ireland, Summer 2014
The most compelling moment was when I visited the heart of Iguazú Falls. The exhilarating ten-minute ride generated a nostalgic past and a futuristic insight. The first five were a reminiscent of all the moments where life is carefree. It is imperative that one visits this natural wonder.
The voyage to “El Hito de Las Tres Fronteras” was a fulfulling experience, as a galvanzing century-long history manifests itself in the landscape of the three borders—Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. It further expanded my breadth of cultural sensitivity.
The moment when I felt the most alive was during my weekend excursion to Santander, Spain. Personally speaking, I didn’t know what to expect when I got there. However, I got the opportunity to learn how to surf for the first time and try octopus (it tastes like chewy chicken). I felt the most alive there because it felt as if I was in paradise and everything was peaceful. The best weekend trips to go on during your time abroad are all of them because you don’t know what opportunities you’re going to miss if you don’t go. The adventure that made the experience for me would have to be late night conversations on the beach with people from my program and I got the chance to know them more.
-Ian Danquah, Madrid, Spain, Summer 2014
I studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain during the spring semester of 2010. Although I had many exciting adventures in Spain, the most amazing adventure I had during my time abroad was a trip to the tiny country of Slovenia. I am half Slovenian and my paternal grandmother, who I was very close to, was born in a little village in Slovenia called Kal in 1922. It had always been my dream to visit “the motherland.”
My friend, Stephanie, and I began the long journey to the capital city, Ljubljana, Slovenia. We spent a view days enjoying the beautiful, old world feel of Ljubljana. After that, we took a train out to Kal (population 200) to meet up with my cousin, David, and his father, Sandro. I had never met these wonderful people before, but as soon as I saw them at the train station, I knew they were my family! They greeted us warmly and were very eager to show Stephanie and me all around the cozy, quaint village. We were taken to the house we would stay in, which had been David’s grandfather’s house. He drove us around Kal and we stopped at many relatives’ homes so that we could be introduced to everyone. Although very few members of my family spoke English, they were unbelievably hospitable towards me and Stephanie. One family member even offered to let me live with her for a summer to teach me Slovenian. It was mind blowing to see all of this great family history and to meet my extended family that day. The best part was when David showed me the family tree that had been kept track of since the 1770s. He added my dad, my brother and myself to the family tree and gave me a copy. It was truly the most amazing day of my life!
Although we didn’t share a common language, we definitely shared a family connection, which was amazing! My grandmother has since passed away, but I am forever grateful to have this connection with her family in Slovenia. If I hadn’t studied abroad in Spain that semester, I would have never gotten to have this life-changing experience. It was very sad to leave Slovenia, but I hope to make it back to the motherland soon!
-Megan Jones, Sevilla, Spain, Spring 2010 (now Spain Site Specialist at ISA)
For next week, we are excited to ask:
“How Has Study Abroad Impacted Your Career Goals?”
Comment below, on the ISA Facebook page, or email your 50-100 word answer to firstname.lastname@example.org. Any ISA student or alum is welcome to contribute!