Despite a pandemic-induced early return, Taryn Lawler traveled wide and far during her time abroad and shares her transformative experiences through self-discovery. Keep reading to learn how Taryn expanded her boundaries and had incredible adventures in Europe!
For the Spring 2020 semester, I had the opportunity and privilege to study abroad in Torino (Turin), Italy. I left at the beginning of January and wasn’t due to return until the end of May, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all study abroad programs in Italy were closed in early March and I returned home early. Although my time in Italy was cut short, I was exposed to many different cultures and amazing experiences. In addition to exploring the city of Torino, I was able to travel to Genova, Italy; Milan, Italy; Bardonecchia, Italy; Geneva, Switzerland; London, England; Budapest, Hungary; Vienna, Austria; Prague, Czech Republic; Edinburgh, Scotland; and Paris, France.
As you can see, I had the opportunity to do a lot of traveling while I was abroad, which was without a doubt one of the biggest highlights of my time in Europe. Before going to Italy, I had never been outside the of U.S. On top of that, neither of my parents nor any of my siblings have left the U.S. either, so being the first to do it, and on my own, was a surreal experience for me. Also, I just love to travel (because who doesn’t?). One of my main goals was to learn about a lot of different cultures, and I got to do that while I was traveling. Obviously, I learned about the cultures of the cities/countries I was traveling to, but one of the cool things about traveling as a student is that a lot of other students or people in their 20s stay in hostels, so you don’t just meet people from the city you’re in, you meet people from all over the world. While I was staying at a hostel in London, my friends and I met a few guys who were from New Zealand and ended up spending the day with them. The next day they invited us to a big celebration for Waitangi Day that was being held outside of Downton Abbey (Waitangi Day is basically New Zealand’s Independence Day). The celebration was so amazing and fun, and I never would’ve had that experience if I hadn’t met those guys in our hostel.
That leads into another one of my highlights— the people I met while I was there. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true. I was so nervous to move to a country where I didn’t know anyone, but I made a lot of friends while I was gone. I made friends from all over the world while I was traveling and formed several close relationships with people from my program. I still talk to two of my roommates (one from California and one from Maine) and another girl from Massachusetts almost every day. I even made friends with two guys right here at the University of Iowa, one of whom I share a major with. Once again, it sounds cheesy to say that I made lifelong friendships, but while I was abroad, I shared nearly every amazing experience with those people and it formed a solid bond between us.
My study abroad experience was full of seeing new places and meeting new people, and while all of that was happening, I learned a few things about myself. First, I learned that I want my future career to be on an international scale. I’ve studied Spanish for quite a few years, and I always knew I wanted to implement those language skills in my career, but it wasn’t until my time abroad that I decided I wanted to expand beyond being bilingual. I now study both Spanish and Italian, and I plan on picking up another language a few years down the road, possibly German or French. I’m not entirely sure what I want my future career to look like at this point, but I now know that I want it to involve working with other cultures and using their languages (and some international travel would be nice too).
Another thing I discovered about myself while abroad was just the simple idea that I could do it. That sounds a little strange, so let me explain what I mean. I was always a pretty independent kid, but I’ve always had people to fall back on. My parents were super supportive growing up, and as my dad’s only child, he wanted to be involved in everything in my life. Studying abroad was the first major life event that I handled on my own. Of course, I had advisors and all kinds of help from UIowa and USAC staff, but I was on my own in a sense that was new to me. Many of my family and friends thought my studying abroad was a “pipe dream” that I would never go through with. I’ve always been prone to anxiety and I’m kind of a homebody, so no one really thought I would be able to handle being away from everyone I knew for six months, especially in a country where I didn’t speak the language. I’m also unbelievably terrible with directions and navigating my way around, so those who thought I could handle being on my own didn’t think I could do it without getting horribly lost. And to be honest, I believed them. But I had dreamed of studying abroad for so long, and I wanted it so bad, so I made myself do it. After months of planning and prep work I finally got there, and guess what? I figured it out just fine, and I had the best time of my entire life.
Written by: Taryn Lawler, Honors Student
My name is Taryn Lawler and I studied abroad! A little about me: I just finished my sophomore year. I’m an economics major and I’m currently minoring in Spanish and Italian with a certificate in international business. In my free time I love to read, play the piano and guitar, and spend time with my roommates and our dog. I’ve wanted to study abroad since I was in high school and last semester I got to make that dream happen!
Edited by: Madhuri Belkale, Honors Student Admin