Tag: Travelling

Chloe Baker in Madrid

Among chatter of finals, WILD, and summer plans, April is also the month juniors compare study abroad options. I am extremely lucky in that I’ve been a Spanish minor since day 1 of freshman year and always knew that the Madrid program was for me. However, for many, the decision does not come as easily. From watching my friends gallivant around the world and experiencing my own semester abroad, here is some advice for picking the best study abroad opportunity for you.

1) Keep an open mind

Many of the Olin programs are less traditional study abroad destinations when compared to some bigger schools your friends from home may attend. Even if it’s not a location you’ve always heard about, don’t count it out. Every place has its merits.

2) Think about what you want from your abroad experience—without your friends.

I’ve become extremely close with other WashU students while studying abroad.
It’s easy to succumb to groupthink and end up picking a location just because you have friends going there, even if it’s not the type of experience you’re looking for. I made the decision independent of my close friends, and it’s worked out incredibly. Plus, I’ve become extremely close with other WashU students in the process.

3) Keep travelling in mind—consider accessibility and location

For some, travelling is a huge part of their abroad experience; for others, not so much. It was a crucial aspect for me, and I have been lucky enough to visit more than 15 cities during my time abroad. I have friends who have spent most weekends in their abroad city and they’ve loved every minute of it. There’s no right answer to this—it’s just important that you keep in mind a city’s accessibility and location if travelling is important to you.

4) Don’t think of studying abroad as the default option

chloe friend
It’s easy to when everyone is discussing it, but it’s a deeply personal choice and it’s not for everyone. Don’t force yourself to go abroad just because you think it’s the right thing to do or most of your friends are going—that’s a recipe for being unhappy. Needless to say, studying abroad is an incredible experience that has truly opened my eyes to so many different cultures, as well as things about myself.

5) Ask questions!

Do not hesitate to reach out to older friends or even just people you know of who have studied in places you’re interested in. We (students abroad) love talking about our experience and can go on for days. The best way to learn about an abroad destination is to talk to someone who’s experienced it!

Photos courtesy of Chloe Baker

I’ve decided to dedicate my blog post to one of the cities I have visited, as I feel like it really encapsulates why I decided to study abroad. I travelled to Istanbul, Turkey, from February 19th-February 22nd with one other traveling partner, my girlfriend.

There’s something about Istanbul that is just absolutely memorable. Whether through both good and bad experiences (and we certainly dealt with both), I feel like this trip really made it clear to me why I decided to go abroad.

First takeaway from Istanbul: the food is delicious. The Turkish don’t eat pork; instead, they’ve replaced it with lamb as their meat of choice. It’s not the meat or the excessive amount of bread they include in each meal that makes Turkish food have that certain, unmistakable taste; rather, it’s the spices. (You don’t really realize excessive bread can be a thing until you take two large bites out of a meat wrap and get nothing but bread!)

I can’t do the spices and seasoning justice in this post, due to the intangible aspect of taste and my complete inability to describe food tastes well, but all I know is that it would be nearly impossible for me not to recognize Turkish food when I came across it. It’s really a microcosm of its culture from an Eastern/Western fusion perspective: nothing I’ve ever seen or tasted before.

Also, an observation that was both a positive and a negative: Istanbul is just nothing like anything I’ve ever experienced. In my life, I’ve only traveled to Europe, China, and North America. Istanbul, despite technically being in Europe, is the capital of a country that is geographically predominant in Asia and is culturally Middle Eastern.

I’ve never been in a primarily Middle Eastern atmosphere and city, and that experience in itself was amazing. The architecture styles, stores, and the people’s customs were something I’d never encountered before in my life. However, that same exhilarating feeling had its downsides. It was the first time I’ve been the only Asian in a community, and by only Asian… I really mean only Asian (aside from my girlfriend).

It took us about 16 hours from when we landed until we found another group of Asian tourists, and those 16 hours were noticeably different. Not in an offensive way at all; rather, it’s just that I’ve never been in such a scenario in my life. If I was close to being the only Asian, I was made aware of it when surrounded by unknown Turkish people.

The Turkish certainly stare, and it’s very noticeable to feel those eyes boring in the back of your head. I’m positive we got scammed a few times, and random people in the streets really enjoy trying to say hi to us in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. I don’t blame anybody for the unsettling parts of our experience; that’s part of being abroad and part of the fun; in retrospect, however, I’ve definitely come to appreciate the diverse population in America now.

And it’s not just the generic description and culture of Istanbul that is so unique: the attractions come off as so original and new, as they don’t share similarities with Western structures. Mosques have a very different and distinct flavor, nothing like the sprawl of churches and cathedrals which, while also very grand and impressive, begin to have diminishing returns after excessive visits.

Nick Wang 2My personal favorite attraction was the Basilica Cistern, the largest of several hundred cisterns beneath Istanbul. As an avid video game player growing up, walking in that labyrinth with the lights, dripping water, and vast columns made me feel like I’d entered some mythical temple.

Another highlight was the boat cruise on the Bosphorous Strait, the body of water that separates the Asia and European portion of Turkey. Just thinking about how I sailed between continents and watching the sunset in this setting is enough to justify why I made this trip.


Nick Wang is an Olin Junior studying Economics and Strategy, Finance, and Chinese Language and Culture. He’s interning abroad in London this semester.