Penn Stater Abroad
By Natasha Schlaffer
Being a Penn Stater abroad is bittersweet. It’s difficult to be from Happy Valley for an entire semester, and missing the State Patty’s Day festivities, the excitement of THON and the buzz around Moving On can lead to a serious dose of FOMO—that’s “Fear of Missing Out” for the less social media-savvy readers. That being said, I wouldn’t trade away my experience as a Nittany Lion abroad for anything. As I learn more about arts, culture and history in Europe, I can’t help but feel even more connected to my Penn State community back home.
I’m a third year Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting candidate minoring in arts entrepreneurship, so, for me, having London as a home base for half a year is an absolute dream. The Big Smoke is famously the center of the world’s most innovative, exciting and prestigious theatres, including Shakespeare’s Globe and The Royal National Theatre, not to mention the incomparable number of world renowned art and history museums that are just a tube ride away—the British Museum is not a 90 second walk from my front door in London’s Bloomsbury neighborhood.
London also serves as the perfect launchpad for traveling the rest of Europe. Seven weeks into the semester, I have already visited St. Albans and Bath in the UK, as well as Bruges, Ypres, Athens, Florence, San Gimignano, Chianti, Siena, Rome and Sicily. I feel insanely fortunate to have had these opportunities to travel and explore. Everywhere I go I am fascinated by how beautifully unique and different each place is from the last, and yet I am astounded by how Penn State has reached and influenced these individual communities across the globe.
With almost 300 programs for students in 50 countries and a rich global campus community, it should be no surprise to anyone that everywhere I’ve traveled Penn State students have been strongly represented. Virtually every fellow traveler I’ve met and conversed with has lit up with recognition and appreciation when we discuss Penn State. Citizens of countries such as Azerbaijan, Hungary, India and Columbia have responded “We Are” when I mention I’m a Penn Stater. Some locals I’ve encountered around Europe have even attended Penn State’s online World Campus. One young woman from Sydney, Australia, who I met on a walking tour of the Acropolis in Athens, had just received her acceptance letter to University Park the previous week and was glowing with excitement at the prospect of making Happy Valley her new home. And, of course, everywhere I travel I meet up with friends from Penn State who happen to be studying abroad in the cities I visit.
At one aptly named bar “The Lion’s Fountain” in Florence, there was a Penn State jersey mounted on the wall autographed by dozens of Penn Staters who had frequented the establishment in the past. It made me feel right at home amidst the soaring Florentine Renaissance structures, winding Arno river and rolling Tuscan hills.
It goes to show you that even though I’m traveling the globe, I’ve never really left Happy Valley behind. Our vibrant global community makes us one of the proudest and most recognizable universities in the world. We should all be proud to wear the Blue and White; I know I am. WE ARE!!!