Junior packs bag and travels Europe but leaves heart behind in Italia

Shannon Flynn, Florence, Italy


Contributed Photo Junior Shannon Flynn is studying abroad in Florence, Italy. Flynn has spent time traveling Europe, visiting Prague, Berlin and Paris, to name a few.

I had an interest in studying abroad. It was one of the reasons why I chose Keene State College. If I hadn’t, this opportunity may not have even been a possibility. I did not really start thinking about going abroad until last spring when some members of the Global Education Office spoke to my Public Speaking class. I did not realize how many study away options Keene offered. Everywhere sounded interesting to me. By the summer, when I started filling out the application, I was able to narrow it down to two places. Now the big question was do I travel to Australia the following spring or do I travel to Italy?

Ultimately I decided to study in Florence, Italy. Some reasons I chose Italy over Australia were because it was more affordable than Australia in the long run, my roommate was going to join me in Italy, and I wanted to experience a completely different culture.

However, the biggest deciding factor for me was that I could travel to many different cities and countries if I studied abroad Italy. By the end of this semester I will have traveled to nine different countries. Well, ten if I count flying in and out of Ireland.

The first trip my roommates and I took out of Italy was to Barcelona, Spain. After studying Spanish for several years, Spain became one of the top destinations I wanted to see while I was abroad. Not only was this one of the least expensive trips I made, but I was also able to meet up with two of my closest friends from Keene who are currently studying in Seville, Spain, which made the trip more fun. We spent most of our first day wandering the city, trying to get a feel for it.

Our second day in Barcelona, we visited La Sagrada Familia, which has to be one of the craziest looking churches I have ever seen. Later that day, we took a gondola to the top of a hill, which gave you a perfect view of Barcelona.

You could see everything. Our final day was spent at Parque Guell. This park was nothing like I had ever seen before.

If it were up to me I could’ve explored its trails the whole trip. We finished off our final hours in Barcelona at the beach, which was the perfect end to the trip.

I did hit a few speed bumps, though. For one, I did not get to practice my Spanish-speaking skills seeing as they speak Catalan, a dialect, in Barcelona. Also, I had my debit card eaten by an ATM.  I have to say Barcelona has to be one of the most unique places I have visited thus far.

The next exploration I took out of Italy was a ten-day bus trip through the “Northern Loop” of Europe.

The “Northern Loop” led us to Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris. Although I spent a lot of time traveling on the bus, the trip was well worth it.

There is no way I would have chosen all those cities or been able to get there myself.

Our first and coldest stop was Prague, Czech Republic. To me, Prague looked like it came straight out of Harry Potter. A lot of the architecture had a gothic look, which was something I had not seen before.

In Prague we had to use a different form of currency called the “crown.” Figuring out the crown was pretty confusing because they price everything in hundreds, so I was having trouble figuring out what the U.S. dollar price would be. My favorite part of Prague was visiting the John Lennon Wall. It was colorful and had a lot of beautiful quotes written on it. Like most of its visitors, I left my mark by writing my name on the wall.

Our next stop was in Berlin, Germany. This was our shortest stay. We were only given a day here but I was able to see everything I wanted to. During the day I visited Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp located right outside of the city. This was one of the most moving moments of my life. You always hear stories and learn about the Holocaust in history class, but seeing a part of it firsthand makes it so much more real.

Once I returned to the city that evening, my roommates and I visited the Berlin Wall. The Eastside Gallery was absolutely stunning. Overall, Berlin was such a memorable place for me because although it was very modern on the outside, there is so much history that goes along with it.

Next we traveled to Amsterdam, Netherlands. So far, this has hands down been my favorite city I have visited. The funny part is I never would have picked Amsterdam as a city to visit, but I am so glad I got the opportunity to. The Anne Frank House is located in Amsterdam, which I had the chance to visit. Like Sachsenhausen, this was incredible to see.

What I liked most about Amsterdam was the fact that it is so different from any other place I had been. The government actually listens to the voice of its people. If the citizens do not agree with something they protest and the government listens to them. Also, prostitution is legal in the Netherlands. In Amsterdam there is a section called the “red light district” where all the prostitutes reside and greet their clients. I can easily say I will never witness something like that again. Amsterdam was also extremely beautiful with its canals running throughout the city and its Dutch architecture.

Our final stop, and the one I was the most excited for, was Paris. Paris was the number one place I had to see when I was in Europe, and it definitely met my high expectations. It was a lot larger than I anticipated, but it was everything I imagined it would be.

While in Paris I was able to see the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Seeing the Eiffel Tower was a dream come true. I was able to eat a picnic lunch on the grass next to it, and then climb to the top to see all of Paris. At night, my roommates and I visited the tower again and watched it perform its light show while enjoying a crepe.

The next morning we visited the Louvre, which was huge. When someone tells you that you would need a month to go through the whole place, they are not kidding. I was only able to see the Mona Lisa and two other exhibits while I was there.

Besides having all these well-known pieces of architecture, Paris is also known for its food. I decided to be brave and try escargot, which turned out to be quite good. To me it tasted like oysters with a garlic pesto sauce. I would definitely recommend them. My long ten-day journey through the northern part of Europe came to a quick end, but three days later I was off again.

I headed back to France, but this time I was heading to the South of France.

I spent last weekend in the French Riviera. It was the most beautiful and relaxing trip I have taken. Just the six hour ride was beautiful in itself.

No matter where you are in the French Riviera, there will always be a beautiful view of the coast with its bright blue ocean and colorful houses that line the mountains. My days were spent lying on the beach soaking up the sun, and my nights were spent exploring the town.  I also was able to gamble at arguably the most well-known casino in the world, the Monte Carlo Casino. If someday I have enough money, I would buy a home here, but that is a long shot.

So far, that is all the traveling I have done outside of Italy. I do have two more trips planned for the next month I will be here. I am going to travel both to Croatia and England in the upcoming weeks. I have also done quite a bit of traveling through Italy. I have visited Venice, Rome, Prato and Orvieto.

I still have to make my trips to Pisa and Naples once my family arrives for their visit. Despite how beautiful and amazing all these cities are I have mentioned, Florence will always be number one in my eyes.

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