In recent days, it seems that Duke’s student body has grown as so many juniors return from their semesters abroad.
Duke sponsors 50 study abroad programs in six different continents, although many students can also find programs belonging to other universities if they desire another location. Although the option to study abroad is open for any student, at Duke it’s typical to take first semester junior year as the time to study abroad, meaning that a large portion of my class was not on campus this last fall.
For someone like me who stayed on campus, it’s definitely exciting to see the quad light up again with so many students, as well as see many of my friends again. It seems that, although many of them had paradise-like vacations abroad, they are unmistakably happy to be in Durham once again.
Trinity junior Tyler Goldberger, who spent his semester perfecting his accent in Madrid, spoke to me at length about the travel habits he picked up. “I could get on a bus and end up in Germany or Italy within a few hours, so I spent many weekends traveling to other countries all over Europe.”
Carolina Isaza, a Trinity junior who was abroad in London, said that she spent almost every week travelling from Wednesday to Sunday, since she only had class on Mondays and Tuesdays. She explained that “In the British grading system, 42 percent is a C, so school wasn’t exactly a major stressor. I was barely home.”
Carolina also pointed out that travel costs were unbelievably convenient. “Tickets from London to Madrid cost me $26. You can’t even Uber from Durham to Raleigh for that little money. But, no, I mean, it’s so great… to be back...” she said, looking longingly in the distance.
“Whenever we were craving French or Italian food, we’d just go to Paris or Rome. But now I get to pick between the different stations at West Union, so that’s cool,” she whimpered.
Junior Hayes McMannemin, who was abroad in Tel Aviv, Israel, said she “laughed out loud” when considering whether to order the falafel pita at Pitchforks. “I know that things like pita and falafel and shawarma are things I’ve permanently had to give up here.”
According to most, even the simple things were easier abroad. Carolina, who now has to park her car in Smith Warehouse, said, “In London I lived five minutes away from a huge shopping area that had every store imaginable, so whenever I needed something I could get it quickly.”
“And now I can’t even park anywhere I want in the Blue Zone, how did that news not reach Europe?” she grumbled.
In Tel Aviv, Hayes said she had the shuk, or market, for snacks and food. “I mean I guess Whole Foods is around the corner. So I can still get snacks, just for three times the price.”
Since Tyler and Carolina have been back, they’ve both had to adapt to new types of travel habits, as they live in the new Mega Dorm on East Campus with the freshmen and must commute to West regularly for class.
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“Yeah, in Spain getting on a bus meant I was about to go see a new country. But getting from East Campus to West is really exciting too,” Tyler explained. “I can disconnect and just think about how I’m not about to go do something fun or adventurous. Maybe take a picture of the chapel, I don’t know.”
Duke’s somewhat limiting social scene has been among the hardest of adjustments to make for these displaced students.
“Clubs in London always had musical guests, and they wouldn’t make people pay for tickets, so the cover charge would stay the same even when we went to go see Diplo, Travis Scott, Akon or Jason Derulo,” Carolina said. “Maybe they cleaned the saddle on the Shooters bull since we’ve been gone?”
Personally though, it’s been nice to have this campus filled out by people like Tyler, Carolina and Hayes, reassuring me that they’re still extremely happy to be back at Duke with semi-strained smiles. And whether they’re desperate to be back in paradise isn’t my concern. We’re all back in it together, and they can dream of being back abroad as they blink in between their empty stares into nothingness during the third round of rush.