Experience Study Abroad: A shortened yet transformative experience in Europe

Although his study abroad experience was cut short due to the pandemic, PJ Hennelly spent a few transformative weeks in Europe, where he pushed himself out of his comfort zone, and realized that the world changes fast, and one needs to be prepared to take action at any point.

On January 27th, I left the comfort of my home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and headed to Florence, Italy, to embark on a journey of a lifetime. Although the program was supposed to run from January 28th to May 16th, unfortunately, due to COVID-19, our trip was cut short. I had been studying at Lorenzo De Medici Institute for a quick 5 weeks, when I had to leave with ten of my best friends from the University of Iowa to come back to the United States. We left Italy on the 5th of March. However, being there for just over a month, I have gained knowledge that will help my professional and personal career goals. I was also fortunate to experience the Italian, Irish, British, and Swiss cultures.

The picturesque Interlaken

Besides being immersed in the Florentine culture, my favorite places to visit were Dublin and Interlaken. The Swiss Alps were beautiful, and being surrounded by them made me realize how lucky I was to be in Europe. Going skiing in the Swiss Alps was an eye-opening experience. I used to think I was a good skier, but then I saw the six-year-olds who were flying past me effortlessly. It is a part of their lifestyle and can be compared to hockey for Canadians. The Swiss kids are in the mountains at a young age, just like Canadians are on the ice at a young age.

In addition, I loved Dublin as it allowed me to experience how my ancestors lived. The Hennelly family originally came to America in the late 19th century. Before they came, they were farmers in rural Ireland. I left on a Thursday and came back on a Sunday. Therefore, I was able to see both coasts. My father told me, our ancestors were a two-hour-long walk from the Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs of Moher show the true beauty of Mother nature.

Skiing with my friends

This experience has also fostered by personal growth. Growing up, I was very sheltered and did not usually go outside of my comfort zone. I went to the University of Iowa because I had two cousins that helped me get acclimated to college. Going abroad forced me to go outside of my comfort zone. I traveled to Ireland by myself to visit my friend in Dublin. If you had told me four years ago I would travel to a foreign country by myself I would not have believed you. Traveling alone made me more self-confident and forced me to become more mature.

Also, I got lost in Florence, and it was an eye opening experience. Being lost abroad is one of the scarier situations I have had to deal with. Being able to find my way around and ask people directions to get back home made me more confident as well. Due to my trip being cut short, I would like to make it back to Europe at some point within the next five years. Ideally, it would be fascinating to work in Europe at some point in International business. Before studying abroad, I would not make that same comment, but being put into challenging situations has made me more comfortable going outside my comfort zone.

My first weekend in Italy, our program took us to a winery 45 minutes outside of Florence. Here is a picture with me and my friend Ethan after we enjoyed a delicious lunch and tried a few different wines.

Author Bio

PJ Hennelly just finished his third year at the University of Iowa. He will be a senior in the fall and is studying Finance. Outside of school, he enjoys investing, playing golf, and ice hockey. After graduation, he plans on doing credit analysis in either Chicago or Milwaukee. He enjoys traveling and has been to seven different countries.

Edited by: Mishma Nixon, Honors Student Admin


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