Returning to Europe and Reflecting on the Importance of Study Abroad

May 24, 2017 5:30:00 PM / by Julie Ritz

CAPA_MadelineMessina_Dublin_Headshot.pngMadeline Messina is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2017, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. An Advertising major and a French and Francophone Studies minor at the University of Florida, she is studying abroad in Dublin this semester.

In her first post, Madeline explains why she feels it is important for her to study abroad and go back to Europe.


Getting ready to go on such a big adventure has certainly been a challenge. As of when I write this, May 19th, I leave for Ireland in five days. To be terribly honest, I haven’t really gotten anything done. What I should be doing is packing, buying business clothes for my internship, and sorting out what will happen when I get to Dublin. But instead I’ve been looking through old things of mine, hidden away while I’ve been at university. I ran across my old journal from my first (and only) trip to Europe when I was 14 years old. It’s a tattered, unassuming, tiny lilac pocketbook. But inside are many tales of my month-long escapade through Germany, Italy, France and Austria. Reading it reminded me of all the adventures I took with my family that summer.

We started in Germany, visiting places like the medieval town of Rothenberg and the great Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria, the southernmost region of Germany.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Dublin_Summer2017_From Madeline Messina Pre-Departure 1.jpg

We then took a short weekend trip to Venice, Italy. At this point in my journal, 14-year-old-me points out that St. Marco’s square in Venice is what Disney’s EPCOT Italian Pavilion is based on. I also noted “They did a really good job.”

After Venice we traveled to Austria, then went back to Germany. We visited Gerolzhofen, where my first cousins live. My dad met the cousins he had never seen before, since my grandmother left during World War II and her sister Edith stayed behind. After that we drove to Paris, which of course was my favorite part since I had been studying French.

After visiting Paris, we drove back to Germany, and flew from Frankfurt to London Heathrow, London to Toronto, and Toronto to Cleveland. I can still remember seeing Big Ben outside my plane window and being completely dazzled, as I was a complete anglophile (and still am one).

CAPAStudyAbroad_Dublin_Summer2017_From Madeline Messina Pre-Departure 2.png

Looking back on this trip, I always remember fondly the amazing things I saw. But rereading my journal reminded me that I didn’t always have that great of a time while I was there. And as I was perusing the photos from that trip, I noticed that I seldom smiled. I was young, and I didn’t understand the importance of travel or how much of a blessing it was to be able to go. I saw and learned so much that I took for granted. I met my German family but didn’t ask their life story or learn about their culture. I went to France and didn’t try to speak the language I was learning. And when I had a chance to eat incredible Austrian cuisine, I was begging to eat at McDonald’s instead. And I think that a big part of me wants to rectify the situation- to go to Europe and breathe it all in. Immerse myself in the culture. Change negative American stereotypes. Appreciate that I get this wonderful opportunity.

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I think my whole European adventure is why I have such a yearning for travel. I may not have realized it then, but I saw such incredible things that many people never see in their whole lives. The world is so different from America, and wondrous to behold. That is precisely why I took the leap and decided to study abroad. My family and friends were a bit surprised when I had told them I was going. A question I get asked a lot is “Why Dublin?” To which I answer, “Well, I’ve never been there before, so it sounds like a great place to start.” Of course, while I am mostly joking when I say that, I do plan to see the world. When your checklist is as long of mine it can be hard to pick a place. I landed on Dublin because of the small community feel of the city and the rich musical culture. Also, I have a lot of Irish ancestry, and I think it would be incredibly interesting to see where they had lived.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Dublin_Summer2017_From Madeline Messina Pre-Departure 4.jpg

So, long story short, no, I haven’t started packing. But I have managed to do some self-reflection, remembering why it is I want to see the world so much. And that has got me even more excited to get on that plane and see the island of Ireland.

Thanks Madeline!

Madeline's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned.

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Topics: Dublin, Ireland, Predeparture & Study Abroad Preparations