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How I Spent My Week Before Finals

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To all of you currently studying for finals back in the States, you may not want to read what I’m about to say.

First off, I will be done taking my two final exams by the middle of the afternoon on December 8. So I will be finishing up around 10 days earlier than I normally would at the University at Albany. Keep in mind I also started attending classes at the University of Glasgow on September 19. So you could say I’m happy I wasn’t in the U.S. for a semester because of the significantly shorter schedule.

And now let me say this, which I’m sure you’ll hate me even more for.

My grades here basically don’t matter.

The grades I receive at Glasgow will not affect my grade-point average back home. I think I was told a while back that I need to earn a C here and I’ll earn the credits back home. Sweet deal to me.

What’s even more awesome is the C I need may not even be what we think of as a C because of the differences between the grading system in the U.K. and the U.S. The requirements were never made clear to me, but my American friends studying with me did the math for their own schools. My friends, who study at the University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin, calculated they only need a 45 percent on their final exams to get the credits for their home universities. I’m not sure what UAlbany’s policies are, but I would assume it’s something similar.

So yeah, my academic semester has been a joke compared to what I’m used to. I just hope I can get back in the swing of things when I return. It’s funny because my friends and I are all near-4.0 students at home and now we are just happy when we score above a 60 on an assignment. It’s almost like we want to see how little effort we can put in to still manage a passing grade.

Barring epic collapses on my two tests, I should pass my classes with flying colors. And oh yeah, those two tests I have to take? I have two hours on each to answer one essay question. I should also mention I already know what the question is. It’s called a “seen” exam; I’ve known the question for three weeks already. I’m confident I’ll be just fine.

Now you’re really going to hate me. So knowing the bar for success is set so low and considering I already know what is on the tests, I decided to head off to Italy for a week before final exams. I literally just spent an entire week in Milan, Cinque Terre, Florence and Rome while everyone back home was probably finishing up classes and freaking out about final exams.

I know you’re going to think I’m crazy. But at this point in the semester, nothing surprises me anymore. I’ve traveled all throughout the breath-taking land that is Scotland. I’ve climbed the tallest mountain in the British Isles. I’ve been to some of the greatest cities on Earth and I have seen some of the most wonderful pieces of art and architecture to ever grace the planet.

So when I arrived in Italy, I didn’t think I could be impressed anymore.

Yeah, I was wrong. In fact I was so impressed that I couldn’t comprehend anything I saw.

The landscapes in Cinque Terre and the clear blue water blew me away. The Florence Cathedral and Brunelleschi’s cupola blew me away. And the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and Vatican City blew me away.

Had Italy been the first stop on my tour of Europe, I would have gone completely gaga over all of it. But now that I’ve been exposed to all that I have, I had a difficult time really appreciating what I was seeing because I’ve just been checking off famous places on my bucket list. I’ve been so blessed to do what I’ve done that I didn’t truly realize what I was doing.

I literally stood on the same ground that was once the center of the most powerful empire in world history. I actually entered into the Vatican City—a different country—and saw the pope’s residence in the heart of the Catholic world. I didn’t realize at the time what I was doing and I’m afraid I didn’t take in the moment as well as I could have. My hope is when I return home that I will get a better appreciation of the things I did. Everything was just happening so fast that it was hard to process it all.

I was able to get a good grasp of the places I’ve been to this semester. But in Italy? To be honest, I felt pretty stupid. Everything I saw—from the ancient ruins of Rome to the marble sculptures in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican—defied logic. I had no explanation for how any of it was possible. I literally couldn’t fathom how the people of the past accomplished all of these incredible feats. I was left speechless and it taught me how little I truly know about the world. I’m pretty exhausted from all the moving around I’ve done this semester and I know it will be a while before I return to Europe. But when I do come, I will make it to Italy again and hopefully I’ll be a little older and wiser so I can appreciate the experience more.

After reading this, do you want to study abroad? I really hope you do. The academic part of it is basically a joke because the expectations are so low. You get to experience a different lifestyle and learn about other cultures. You get to do new things with new friends. You get to travel the world. You get to eat food you’ve never had before. It’s all part of an experience unlike anything you’ve ever had. You get to temporarily lead a life completely different than the one back in the United States. It’s a unique experience and I’m so happy and fortunate that UAlbany gave me the chance to do it. I’m also really thankful to have all of the friends and family back home who have supported me throughout this journey, which ends on Dec. 18. I’m almost at the finish line and I hope all of you get there with me.

Cheers!

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