Repost from SMU Abroad: "Peer Adviser Spotlight: Alec"

This is a repost from the blog I ran this past year about returning student from SMU's abroad programs. If you want to read more stories like this one check out my other blog here.

Alec Edwards

SMU-in-Madrid, Summer 2015
IFSA-Butler: London School of Economics, Academic Year 2015-2016
SMU-in-Israel, January 2017

International Studies and Human Rights majors; and Business Administration, History and Spanish minors

Graduating Spring 2017

My favorite abroad memories are all while I was traveling during my free time, and since I studied abroad for a whole year my junior year I had a lot of time to travel. I think I saw over 13 different countries in the span of a year. I could ramble on for ages about each on, but my favorite trip was one of the few that I took by myself. While I was at LSE, I had a month off after Easter before exams started, so I decided to take a few trips around Europe. I had wanted to go to Trieste, Italy and Ljubljana, Slovenia since I had read that they were some of the most underrated travel destinations in Lonely Planet, Another reason I was so anxious to go was Trieste is the location of one of the only Nazi concentration camps in Italy. I had never gone to a concentration camp before, but I had been to the Holocaust Museums in both Dallas and Washington, DC. I had been to countless WWII museums, and honestly, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know about the Holocaust. But I wanted to feel it, and as a Human Rights major, it felt especially important to me. I wanted to be in the same place that I had read about. So I packed my bags and left London for the week. After settling into Trieste for a few days, on a rainy morning, I took the local bus out to the south of the city to Risiera di San Sabba, the site of the camp. The whole thing felt surreal, and actually rather fictional. I was alone. The only people there were two workers. I said hello to them, but they returned to their office. The site is open-air, so as I walked through the building the rain began to pour. As I looked up to the sky where the smoke stack once stood, I was overwhelmed with the power of the camp, its meaning, and weight of it all came crashing down on me.
— Alec Edwards

Alec’s first study abroad was to Madrid, Spain. There he stayed with a host family and took Topics in Spanish Civilization and Spanish Conversation.

Sintra, Portugal, 2014

Sintra, Portugal, 2014

While you’re in Madrid you have to check out:

  • El Tigre: if you want great tapas for really cheap, come here!
  • Museo Reina Sofía: I’m really into modern art and this museum is one of the best I’ve been to
  • El Retiro: rent a boat, take some great pictures, don’t fall into the pond–it’s cold
  • Chocolatería San Gines: churros are great, but the best part about this place is that it’s open 24/7
  • La Bicicleta: my favorite hangout spot, and the neighborhood, Malesaña, is super hip.
  • Estación de Chamberí Museum: it’s an old subway stop that they have restored and turned into a museum. It’s a fun place to go and watch the train cars pass by.

His favorite memories from the trip were the group dinner in Granda, visiting la Confitería Santo Tomé in Toledo, and visiting Lisbon and Sintra on one of his free weekends. While he was in Madrid he also took a trip to Córdoba as part of a class trip and traveled to Paris on a free weekend.

SMU-in-Madrid group photo, 2014

SMU-in-Madrid group photo, 2014

The next fall, Alec traveled to London to attend the London School of Economics for a full academic year. At LSE, he took Introduction to Development in the Global South, the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Islamic Empires: 1400-1800, and International Organizations.

Nick and myself, Bath, 2015

Nick and myself, Bath, 2015

While you’re in London you should definitely find time to do some exploring on your own and experience the great multiculturalism that London has to offer. Sure, the Eye, Tower Bridge, and Elizabeth tower are great! But you need to go get Indian food on Brick Lane, go to Old Spitalfields Market, check out Dinerama in Shoreditch, and buy tea from Fortnum & Mason. My favorite restaurant at the moment is actually a vegan and vegetarian place in Soho called Midreds. But there is so much other great food in London, I think I spent most of my money on food. When I wasn’t eating, I really loved touring the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Tate Britain, the Imperial War Museum, and the National GalleryIronically, while I was in London, the National Gallery had an exhibit on Fransisco Goya, and they had one of his painting on loan from the Meadows Museum. If you have a chance you should definitely try to see a concert at The O2 Arena. I went to see Ellie Goulding play there right before I went home for Easter, and it was a great cool experience to go to a concert in another country with my friends.

in Vienna, 2016

in Vienna, 2016

While he was in London for the year, Alec also traveled to Oxford, England; Prague, Czech Republic; Bath, England; Dover, England; Dublin, Ireland; Cork, Ireland; Edinburgh, Scotland; Rome, Italy; Copenhagen, Denmark; Stockholm, Sweden; Vienna, Austria; Zürich, Switzerland; Bern, Switzerland; Interlaken, Switzerland; Hamburg, Germany; Pisa, Italy; Florence, Italy; and Cambridge, England.

Alec’s last program was actually while he was a Peer Advisor in the SMU Abroad office. In January 2017, he traveled to Israel on the first ever SMU study abroad J-Term class. There, he took a 10-day Ways of Knowing course called Religious and Social Meanings of the Holy Land.

My favorite part about this study abroad trip was that I took it with some of my best friends. I found out that the office was sponsoring a J-Term program, and I really wanted to go. So got my friends to sign up with me, and it was honestly the most educational and rewarding trip. The program was really small, so we got to know the professors really well, and I loved learning from them. As much as it was a shock to me how structured and packed the trip was, it helped me understand something that I had been studying for so long from a completely different perspective.
Mikveh Squad, 2017 (left to right: me, JR, Claire, Patricia)

Mikveh Squad, 2017 (left to right: me, JR, Claire, Patricia)

Some recommendations he has for while you study abroad:

  • Studying abroad for so long can be tough, so if you have the chance make sure to join a club or local sports team so you can make some local friends.
  • Call your cell phone company and ask them to unlock your phone for international travel before you leave the country, they should do it for free and you can get a cheap sim card for data and texts once you arrive in your host country.
  • Don’t be afraid to do something you’ve never done before, but make sure you do your research first and be smart about it.
  • Study abroad AS MANY TIMES AS POSSIBLE. My study abroad experiences were my favorite part of undergrad, and I met some of my best friends while I was abroad.