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Lessons From Study Abroad: Live Out Loud

"If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.” -- Emile Zola 
 First spotting in Barcelona.

So often when we study abroad, we make lists of all the places we've been told to visit, of all the places we've dreamed of visiting, of all the places we've Googled late at night and then drooled over, picturing ourselves on the most epic adventure of our lives. And it's true: in many ways this is the most epic adventure of our lives. But what makes it so epic? What makes these places list-worthy? In my opinion, and from my experiences so far, so much of what makes study abroad absolutely unforgettable is the art and history in each of these places we're so fortunate to visit. It's like we just walk right into a living, all-encompassing museum of humanity. When I first came to Europe, I remember thinking constantly, "Everything is just so old!" History is everywhere. And amidst it all, there are artists upon artists who have truly decided to "live out loud." And the world has taken notice.
 A building by Gaudi (Barcelona)
My first big weekend trip after arriving in France was to Barcelona. And what a way to kick off my travels! I’m still trying to pinpoint what gave it its many personalities—perhaps the architecture that sometimes seemed as if it would come alive right then and there, or maybe the brightly colored alleyways lined with flowery balconies and zigzagging clotheslines, or maybe it was simply the people themselves who gave it such a lively, animated air. All of these things, of course, added to my admiration.

Before going to Barcelona, I knew very little about Gaudi, the Catalan architect whose work is spread sporadically all throughout the city. But after seeing some of it, I am absolutely in awe! His designs seem so radical for the late 1800s and early 1900s, especially the colorful casas squeezed in here and there, and of course, La Sagrada Familia, his trademark “unorthodox” design that challenges contemporary architects to this day. With its soaring towers modeled from crystals and grains, to its lizard-inspired gargoyles and its spiral, snail-like staircases, the whole cathedral is entirely inspired by the natural world. Indeed, the city is bursting with Gaudi, who certainly lived loudly through his architecture.
 Ancient cathedral in Barcelona.
Yet another highly memorable weekend trip was to Rome. One morning I woke up early and decided to go for a walk. As I ventured down the narrow little street, I turned a corner and BAM! There before me was a massive basilica standing stoutly on a gradual hill. It’s like it just appeared out of nowhere, but still somehow fit in perfectly. I soon learned that I had stumbled upon the largest Marian church in Rome: Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. I also soon learned that this church contained mosaics with the oldest representation of the Virgin Mary in Christian Late Antiquity. Apparently the iconographic depiction of the Virgin Mary was chosen to celebrate the affirmation of Mary as Theotokos (“bearer of God”) by the third ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 CE. One of the first things I noticed was the basilica’s coffered ceiling, which was designed by Giuliano da Sangallo, a famous Italian architect who I actually studied all last semester in a High Renaissance architecture class. To see the textbook images that I had analyzed on a classroom projector now in real-life form before me was incredible. Suddenly it all became that much more real and alive in my mind.
 Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

The truth is, I could go on and on when it comes to the things I've seen and witnessed abroad, but above all, I'd like to say "thank you,' artists and architects alike, for encouraging me to LIVE OUT LOUD through creativity.
 Living Out Loud (and in color) at Carnivale in Venice.

 Emily Blume is the Spring 2014 CEA MOJO in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is currently a Sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh.

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