By Nolan DiFrancesco > Junior > International Studies > Johns Hopkins University
I’ve been in Beirut now for just over one week. And what a week it has been! I’ve explored the city itself, enjoyed the gorgeous Mediterranean climate, snowboarded in the Faraya mountains, tasted wine in the Bekaa Valley, walked the ancient Roman temples of Baalbek, attended one of Lebanon’s most anticipated political rallies of the year, and, not to be forgotten, sampled the amazing varieties of nightclubs the city has to offer.
But of course, studying abroad is about more than experiencing as much touristy stuff as possible in as short a time. It’s about absorbing the culture in such a way that you are nearly a native, in a way, by the end. Someone who knows the people, the language, the culture. It is not an easy task; it is one that requires constant work and attention.
I have three main goals for my study abroad experience:
1. To have an amazing time. To experience a new culture in a way that not only changes my perspective but shakes my entire worldview. No matter who you are, everyday should present a new adventure. But in Beirut? It should be every minute!
2. To really learn Arabic. I’ve taken nearly two years now and I’ve made progress in the language. But I am not even close to fluent. Here at my new school, AUB [American University Beirut], I am enrolled in two classes – Modern Standard Arabic and the Lebanese Colloquial (don’t worry, I’ll devote a blog post to interesting varieties of the language). Inshallah (God willing), I’ll see some progess.
3. Lastly, I am interested in pursuing writing. This is certainly a good place to do it. Following the Lebanese political situation is like following college basketball’s March Madness. You may or may not have a favorite team, but there are 64 other teams, and you sure as hell don’t know who is going to win. I would love the opportunity to dabble in journalism, maybe shadowing a foreign correspondent or attempting to write my own articles. It will certainly be an adventure…
Students choose to go all over the world, many to Europe, but some also choose to travel to a number of the most exciting places in the world, places where signs of American culture are few and far between. To anyone interested in travel, the abroad experience offers invaluable opportunities to grow and learn. Here’s to hoping that I can appreciate it to the fullest…