What Happens in Europe, Stays in Europe | My Study Abroad Experience

It felt like a dream. 
One minute I was in Chicago, the next I was walking around the beaches of Cannes not missing any of Chicago's inclement weather, and breathing in the fresh French Riviera ocean air. A dream it was. Now that I'm finally home after three weeks, reminiscing all of the moments and memories I made, I think it's about time to share my adventures studying abroad in France, The Netherlands, and Spain. All countries have very different, rich cultures, and I was eager to explore it all. 

My two professors, Juan and Marshall, worked very hard to manage a group of 15 girls and one guy. We were all very grateful to have two experienced travelers and prestigious DePaul advertising professors who taught us during our three weeks. The international advertising program consisted of our professors giving us briefs every Sunday catered towards a global client that we had to create an entire advertising campaign for—an opportunity to really build our portfolios on a global scale. Stay tuned because I will be including my final portfolio within the next week.

Advertising was not something I considered to be a career trajectory because if you're like a lot of people, all you want to do is skip an ad, mute the commercials, swipe past catalogs on your browser, and upgrade to no-ad premium subscriptions. All of which I have participated, but this trip made me see ads differently. Not as a way to sell or manipulate, but to share messages and facilitate authentic connections with people. Sure I'll still skip an ad, but this industry is really challenged by the way that ads shape our culture and an impatient one at that. It takes real talent to make people like advertising and it amazes me at how impactful a slogan, a word, a picture of a hamburger, or a puppy-monkey-baby can make #1 on Superbowl Sunday. 

Cannes, France
This is me happy in my new French dress that I bought at a store called Mango. 

After surviving a surprisingly pleasant eight-hour flight into Zurich, Switzerland and a connection to Nice, France, we were off to Cannes for the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, which isn't the Cannes Lions Film Festival, but close. It is an annual five-day celebration of some of the largest leading names in the ad industry, as well as, celebrity guests who discuss and honor their creative achievements this past year. It felt like an honor to be there, especially as a student. 

The festival is commonplace for creative minds and innovators. There were brainstorming workshops and creative presentations that everyone was able to experience. Every day we were required to visit two talks and reflect on them as our daily homework assignment. We saw the CEO of Edelman, John Legend, Laura Dern, Big Sean, Katie Couric, Kerry Washington, Jeff Goldblum, and many more. 

When we were done with our talks, we had the time to enjoy the rest of the festival at the social media beaches: Google Beach (our favorite), Twitter Beach, Facebook Beach, Instagram Beach, and Pinterest Beach. Every day there was a planned happy hour and everyone in our group reconnected over music and late-night drag shows. 

The parties were filled with complimentary food and drinks (which we definitely took advantage of), fun activities like photo booths and playground equipment, and a chance to mingle with all of the professionals and presenters there. Though some of us just danced the night away and forgot we were here to get work done. It truly felt like a vacation. 

I also met a Youtuber Caspar Lee, who I used to watch when I was a tween and just shouted his name at Pinterest Beach. We walked around the streets with an abundant amount of shopping and amazing seafood and French cuisine—escargot, of course. It felt like I was living in a fairytale and all of my stresses went away. No one can be unhappy in a place like that. Not even the accordion playing man. 

We also took a free day to explore the island of Sainte Marguerite and took a train to Monaco to celebrate my group's success as we won our first campaign, named France 20/20, and did we gamble? Well, I definitely splurged a bit that weekend. 
This was taken on Twitter Beach alongside Juan Mundel (middle) and a visiting professor Julie Ferguson (left) on a warm, sunny day filled with engaging presentations and happy hour. 
This was taken after my big girl purchase at Gucci and a much-needed refreshment in Monaco, Monte Carlo. You can tell how blissful I looked and felt. 

I fell in love with France, swimming in the sparkling blue water, perfect sunsets, beautiful people, amazing parties, delicious food, and constantly exhausting the phrase "Merci beaucoup". I really want to go back and explore different parts of the country. It all went by a little too fast, but we were all ready to move onto our next city, Amsterdam.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

We arrived in Amsterdam during an inferno heatwave and were all wishing we were back at the beach, but we were also very excited to see the brownstones and canals as we bused up to our hotel. 

Bikers dominated the streets and everyone was ready to see the new city, but also focus on our work this week. We were earning for a bit more structure in our schedule after all that partying and met at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences every day from 9 to 12 to work with some of the students we got to meet and hang out with after class. 

One of the many canals and bridges I saw during my trip. The bikes border the entire bridge. 

Amsterdam is a very unique city, after class, we would work on our campaigns promoting a new coffeeshop to arrive in Chicago, these are basically cafés that legally sell weed, which was a very interesting thing to experience. So many people smoke weed there, it smells in every alley. We also toured the canals, the Anne Frank House, the Rijksmuseum, did the Heineken Experience and explored the brewery, and biked along the countryside to see some windmills.

 I felt like Amsterdam was very similar to Chicago in some ways like the amount of traffic, the proximity of every bar and landmark, the diverse demographics, and so many different types of restaurants. Moroccan, Indonesian, Argentinan places, etc. Also, the canals were as murky as the Chicago River. Some days the weather was actually breezy and cool like the city. I was surprised at how I could feel a little at home there. 

Amsterdam is known to have a lot of nightlife, so I was going to bed around midnight every night and the sun never set until 10:30. We kept saying that time never exists in Europe.

I really enjoyed having the whole day to do everything and not feel like I had to rush to do activities while it was still daylight. Amsterdam was very different than the two other cities. One that was more frugal, modernized, and progressive. 

My favorite parts of Amsterdam were along the canals and finding small boutiques, thrift shops, bars along the water, and eating as many stroopwafels as I could before we left. I also really loved walking down the side streets in the residential areas and peeking through balconies and getting a feel of what living there was like. It felt like we were walking through a movie. 

These were some of the Dutch students we got to meet, work with, and spend time with. I got close to the girl named Jette (pronounced yett-a) and two boys, Terry (left) and Nathan (right). 
Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona has a special place in my heart. I think I fell in love with it the most. For some reason, I found a connection with this city more than the others. I was able to speak and understand Spanish and could communicate with the locals. It was a revealing practice of my self-confidence and boldness, for sure. It's empowering to know a language and that's why I plan on continuing my studies with Spanish at DePaul. 

After a while, I got very comfortable talking to people and asking around for the best tapas places. Our first night there we made it a goal to get tapas and sangria. Which inspired our last advertising brief which was to make McDonald's now serve tapas–McTapas. This was the hardest challenge for me because I struggled to elevate something that was already as good as it is, Mcdonald's, but now with tapas. I tried so hard to think of something more creative, outside the box, but sometimes maintaining brand equity in advertising has the most successful feedback. 
I was on a mission to find an authentic painted fan and I found this beautiful one, along with two for my sisters, at a Mercería, which sells handmade fans of all colors and flamenco costumes. I made sure to bring it to our flamenco show—it also saved me and my friends from overheating. 

We explored the historic alleyways of Gothic Quarter, Las Ramblas and the shopping district, La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, Gaudi's House, and scoped out where the Cheetah Girl's filmed their second movie and all of the markets where I got to try kangaroo meat (it does taste like jerky) and drink lots of sangria. 

We had a rooftop pool at our hotel, so on very hot afternoons during siesta time (between 1 and 4) we spent swimming after class and some people even made it to the beach. I also loved just staring at the architecture around every corner of the city. Terra cotta roofs, intricate balconies, breathtaking cathedrals, I definitely got some inspiration from them. Our Fourth of July was spent seeing Flamenco dancers and treating our professors to a final salud at a local pub. 

I was very fortunate to have had this experience. I mean, it was a trip of a lifetime. Every moment was just amazing and there is so much more that I want to share, but also keep for myself to remember. Thankfully, there were no problems, issues, breakdowns, injuries—nada. I made lasting friendships and connections with people that I will carry on forever. I would one hundred percent recommend studying abroad to any college student thinking about it. Apply now, do it, you will regret it. 

I never had doubts about applying for this trip. I knew exactly how bad I wanted to go and I persisted. I remember being so nervous because we had to interview for this program and it meant so much to me. On one of our first nights in France, I was standing on an old church ruin on the hilltop Notre Dame d'Espérance overlooking Cannes and just cried. I was so grateful to experience a view so perfect and a trip that my whole family probably wouldn't be able to ever go on together. Traveling is expensive. This was not something I could just "come up with," but every penny spent was worth it and I am willing to pay that debt. 

There can be so much worry that aligns with travel and I'm sure there are lots of other reasons, such as financial, for why it is so hard to drop everything and get on an airplane. However, as clichè as it sounds, I want to lead a life of adventure and knowing that I can get out of my comfort bubble if I just allow myself to be open and spontaneous. I have to work for it. 

I learned much about patience, maturity, problem-solving, adapting to a new culture, communication skills, and more about myself in the past three weeks than I have in college for two years already. I knew I was going to learn something more about myself and knowing that I can do it on my own makes me motivated to reach for these big, life-changing decisions and take risks every once in a while. These are experiences that I will take with me through life.

Traveling can be a very emotionally challenging, personality revealing, stress enduring, and life-changing time—I have proved to myself that I can do it. I hope you've enjoyed reading the beginning of my travel journey. If you have dreams of travel, continue to work towards it. 

Someone once told me that if you aren't scared of your dreams, then they aren't big enough.

Where should I travel to next? 

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