How Being the Only American in a European Study Abroad Program Changed Everything

Let’s set the stage.

I had just completed my last year at Ole Miss, with my thesis already written and accepted by my department. I had enough credits to graduate, and while I spent holidays studying abroad in Chile, Costa Rica and China, I had yet to spend the requisite semester abroad for my degree program. I had also not yet been to Europe, so it was off to Portugal!

Situated roughly equidistant from both Lisbon and Porto, Coimbra is the 3rd largest city in Portugal. The Universidad da Coimbra is one of the oldest universities in the world, dating back to the 13th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. My school had just begun an exchange program with the university and I was the first student from Ole Miss to make the trip.

I was also the only American enrollee that semester.

Which made it awesome.

The university, not knowing what to do with me, lumped me in with the other international students in the Erasmus program. What happened after that turned me into a different person.

I’ll spend the next week relating stories from the ensuing months. Our tales will take us through wildfires, the first ever World Cup of Powered Wheelchair Soccer, Cuban rap groups, and ancient Templar castles. There was also a lot of wine involved.

Tomorrow we begin with the wildfires. Stay tuned.

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