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**Politely Declining Updates on Your Study Abroad: A Satirical Take**

“The final activity I engaged in during my time in Italy involved leisurely walking through a bustling square with a frothy cappuccino in hand — have I mentioned that before?”

Every year, a multitude of Arizona State University students set off on a journey to study abroad, with a significant number of them fulfilling their dream of exploring Europe. While some return with a newfound perspective on life, the majority come back insufferable. You can easily spot them — they are the ones who kick off every conversation with “when I was in Europe…”

These self-proclaimed worldly adventurers are incessantly boasting about their academic challenges, claiming to have achieved fluency in the local language, and expressing admiration for the simple lives of their host families. However, this information is not new as they feel compelled to share every detail of their enriching experiences visiting Europe’s tourist hotspots — or should I say, hidden gems — on social media.

These self-appointed globetrotters feel obligated to meticulously document their four-month escapade in Italy and update those back home in the States, who they perceive as less cultured and traveled.

Their Instagram profiles resemble Pinterest boards showcasing every artisanal bread they savored, picturesque bridges, and cobblestone streets they may have stumbled upon while engrossed in their phones, counting the likes on their latest post.

Despite my guilt in admiring these photo montages and commenting “STUNNING!” I have finally reached my limit.

You would assume that the incessant, not-so-humble bragging — through superficially “aesthetic” photos cluttering your feed and lengthy Instagram stories showcasing random Greek scenery — would cease upon their return to Arizona, where they are confined to a car-centric lifestyle like the rest of us commoners. However, this is just the beginning.

Upon their inevitable return from these riveting escapades, they transform into valiant explorers reminiscent of the Age of Exploration, who have just stumbled upon cheese not encased in plastic. Naturally, they feel compelled to share their newfound wisdom with anyone willing to endure a 30-minute monologue. But fear not, for I have discovered a groundbreaking revelation: Former study abroad students are incredibly gullible.

Here are authentic dialogues I’ve had with friends who returned from Europe, annoyingly eager to overshare, and how I managed to turn the tables.

‘Back in (insert European destination)…’

“In Florence, I volunteered at a local orphanage and practiced Italian with the nuns and children,” my friend, Emma, recounted as we caught up over coffee, or as she would refer to it, caffè.

“I felt so immersed in the moment, appreciating life’s simple pleasures, you know?”

“I can only imagine,” I responded, although I truly couldn’t. Emma spent a significant portion of her study abroad hopping on planes to Berlin and Madrid for 48-hour clubbing excursions, and scouring Paris in search of a French beau. I am aware of this because she would dial me from these destinations at all hours, updating me on her latest escapades, regardless of the time difference. It seemed like she spent minimal time exploring Florence, where she was meant to be attending classes for an entire semester.

“The locals in Italy weren’t very receptive to study abroad students,” Emma continued. “I received numerous disapproving glances just walking down the streets.” Perhaps due to her choice of athleisure wear and the audacity to request ice in her wine.

“Even from the nuns?” I innocently inquired. And that’s how they lure you in. One innocent question about their journey, and you can kiss a pleasant evening goodbye.

After she name-dropped the 15th European country she visited — I kept count — I desperately sought solidarity from another captive soul in this conversation. At that moment, we transcended to a higher plane of existence and silently concocted a plan.

Together, we spun an otherwise mundane semester at ASU into tales that could potentially become legendary on Tempe Barstool. Nightly revelries. Hilariously disastrous Tinder encounters. Unexpectedly successful Tinder dates. Coveted internships and job offers were secured. Friend circles expanded. All exaggerated narratives, akin to anecdotes from any study abroad experience.

Emma never reached out again. Audrey: 1, Emma: 0

‘You wouldn’t understand’

Another common archetype born from studying abroad is The Intellectual. These pseudo-philosophers are typically history enthusiasts who spent their days wandering through museums and fixating on a single artwork for hours on end. It seems as though they read “The Secret History” once and decided to embody its essence entirely.

This rings true for my dear friend, Joe, who spent the previous spring in Spain, particularly Madrid and Barcelona — or as he now pronounces it, Bar th elona.

One evening in early August, we took a stroll and exchanged updates on our lives. I could sense that he was eagerly waiting for me to inquire, “So, how was Spain?” Being the supportive friend that I am, I indulged him. Little did he know, I was no novice. Emma had already initiated me into the world of study abroad conversations, and I was prepared for another showdown.

I allowed him to reflect on his internship at the U.S. embassy in Madrid and the privilege of witnessing democracy in action abroad. In a gentlemanly manner, he apologized for becoming overly enthusiastic and using terms that he assumed I was unfamiliar with, such as “visa” and “expat.” This led to a discourse on the weekends he spent immersing himself in Spain’s culture, often embarking on solitary city tours.

“I found solace in solitary strolls,” Joe remarked. “It grounded me in the moment and enabled a genuine connection with the locals.”

“How fascinating,” I replied, secretly preferring dishwashing.

Internally, I chuckled at the image of him envisioning himself as Ethan Hawke’s character in “Before Sunrise” — romantic, introspective, and wandering in pursuit of life’s meaning.

Naturally, Joe proceeded to drop names of all the museums he visited and the artworks that stirred his soul. The quintessential sensitive thinker.

“Gazing upon Diego Velá th quez’s masterpieces in person — indescribable,” he declared. “You wouldn’t grasp its essence unless you witnessed it firsthand.” I rolled my eyes. “I regard him as one of the greatest Romantic painters to have ever lived.”

And there it was, the moment we had all been waiting for.

“What are you talking about?” I interjected, seizing the opportunity. “Velázquez belonged to the Baroque era.”

Following that revelation, Joe posed his first question about my life since his return. Audrey: 2.

‘I can never return to the U.S.’

For some individuals, the European lifestyle serves as a temporary respite from the American way of life, but the United States will always be home. However, for others, a sip of authentic caffè espresso and efficient public transportation in Europe are sufficient to deter them from ever setting foot in America again.

The predicament with these aspiring expatriates is that you can’t entirely fault them. The notion of fleeing the country has crossed the minds of most Americans at some point — assuming their critical thinking skills remain intact. Nevertheless, this doesn’t preclude you from poking fun at their belief that Europe beckons to them on a profound level.

I often engage in this banter with my friend, Harper, who happens to be one of the least bothersome study abroad returnees I know. Following her graduation in May, she plans to promptly relocate to Ireland, where she has already secured an apartment.

I empathize with her decision. I, too, would eagerly move to the most harmonious European country — and the birthplace of Paul Mescal — in a heartbeat. However, there are moments when she adopts a certain gaze, indicating an imminent monologue about her disdain for the U.S. freeway system and her eagerness to walk everywhere in a matter of months.

During such instances, I raise topics related to U.S. politics and inquire, “So, have you decided on your preferred presidential candidate for the upcoming election? Have you researched each contender’s stance on public transportation? Do you intend to return home to cast your vote?” This prompts her to release a prolonged, exasperated sigh.

“One can’t simply abandon their friends to navigate this chaos without fulfilling their civic duty,” I chide her. Subsequently, I crank up Celtic folk music as we merge onto Interstate 10 during rush hour. Audrey: 3, TKO.

Keep it under wraps

If you have a study abroad returnee in your social circle, first identify their persona, and then strategize for their homecoming. Tailor your approach based on their recent gallivanting escapades. Conduct some anthropological research. Trust me, the effort will be worthwhile in the end.

If you happen to be a former study abroad student and possess adequate self-awareness to recognize yourself in these anecdotes, I implore you, kindly refrain from incessant sharing.

Edited by Camila Pedrosa, Savannah Dagupion, and Madeline Nguyen.

This article is part of The Culture Issue, which was published on February 28, 2024. View the complete publication .

Editor’s Note: The viewpoints expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and do not reflect any endorsement from State Press Magazine or its editorial team.

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