Study abroad students say campus goodbyes before winter break

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Study abroad students say campus goodbyes before winter break

Margaret Kots

Margaret Kots

Margaret Kots

By Kyra Kirsh, Staff Writer

Winter break begins later this year, and many students are disappointed to see their holiday time has been cut from four weeks to three. But for students studying abroad in the spring, this winter break marks the start of their semester-long goodbye to Champaign.

As a junior who is studying abroad this spring, I am approaching the odd reality that I will not be returning to Champaign in mid-January as I normally do after a month at home for winter break.

Although students are getting excited for the opportunity to study abroad, they are beginning to realize that there are little things about this small rural town they might find themselves missing.

I will miss the Americanness: the comfort of walking down the street and embracing my culture, rather than hiding it.

At our study abroad meetings, we were told to “not fulfill the American stereotypes abroad.” Although that doesn’t necessarily mean “don’t act like an American,” it does give off the impression that our culture is not exactly accepted in Europe.

During one of my many recent study abroad meetings, I looked around at the hundreds of students sitting around me and wondered if I was alone or if they were going to miss some things about Champaign, too.

So, I asked.

“It’s weird because, from the outside, you look at this town and wonder how anyone could even compare it to Italy, Spain or Prague. But from the inside, there are definitely things that I have grown to love about Champaign, especially the fact that I’m so comfortable here,” said Wyll Teubel, junior in Business. “It almost feels similar to when I was leaving for college, just with a lot more excitement.”

Teubel decided to study abroad in Rome, Italy, because he wanted the “big-city feel” in a European country. Teubel said  he’s been soaking up his last few weeks on campus by “eating at places unique to Champaign.”

And once he returns home, he is in store for a less-than-ordinary winter break.

“I’ll be spending this Christmas break preparing myself for abroad by getting all of the necessary clothes, accessories and tools that I will need come Jan. 18,” Teubel said. “Normally we travel for the majority of break, but this year we can only travel for a few days since there’s so much to do still. It’ll be far from a relaxing break.”

When it comes to experiences, well, there really is no competition there. Studying abroad is known for the experiences you cannot get in America. However, the perceived magnitude of an experience, a food or a location isn’t all that matters. Many things hold a personal importance to us, and the idea of familiarity holds a lot of value.

Dyllan Whitehead, junior in LAS,  is studying abroad in Tel Aviv, Israel, and she can attest to the importance that familiarity holds in her life.

“I feel embarrassed for expressing concern about experiencing new, unfamiliar things because that is pretty much the reason why I am going abroad, but I can’t help but worry,” Whitehead said. “What if I don’t like the food? Or what if the Israeli people treat me unfairly because I look visibly American? These are things that I never have to worry about in Champaign, especially by now because I know so many people on campus.”

Whitehead said she plans to spend her last few weeks on campus embracing the familiarity and comfort of Champaign because she will soon be trading it in for complete unfamiliarity.

“My family always travels for winter break, but this year we are not going anywhere because my mom thinks I will be doing so much traveling in Tel Aviv that I will want to appreciate home in the weeks leading up to it,” Whitehead said. “I also have a ton of shopping to do. Unfortunately, I can’t wear my sweatshirts and sweatpants there.”

Hundreds of students are preparing to live in different continents, countries and cities, but one thing remains certain: They will return to their beloved campus next fall with tons of new stories to share.

Kyra is a junior in Media.

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