Out of New Jersey and into the world

Certain phrases became commonplace last semester when I had the opportunity to study abroad at Oxford University in England, like “Hiyaa, would like you me to top up your beverage? Cheers.”

Though I was extremely nervous about leaving my friends and family, my time abroad ended up being one of the greatest experiences of my life, and other students who have studied abroad probably feel the same.

John Bryndza, senior biomedical engineering major, is an example of such a student. He was studying abroad at the University of the West of England, in Bristol, England this past semester.

The common misconception with studying abroad is that it is usually the students with the “easy” majors who have the opportunity to do so. He reassured me, “If you want to do it, you can do it. It’s possible to graduate in four years, but even if you have to stay an extra semester, it’s worth it.”

With this mentality, Bryndza started working hard for his money this past summer so that he could treat himself right abroad. Though the academic year in England started at the beginning of October, Bryndza decided to travel before the term started. He first traveled to Switzerland, where he hiked the Alps, and then stopped by Italy to see his girlfriend, Katelyn Danback, senior communication studies major, who was also studying abroad.

Asked if it was difficult to be separated from her, he said, “I wouldn’t pass up the experience because I know she isn’t going anywhere.” With inexpensive airlines like RyanAir or easyJet, they were able to meet each other in different cities in Europe on the weekends.

After leaving Italy, Bryndza trekked on his own to Poland and the Czech Republic. He embodied the true essence of a backpacker. Jumping from hostel to hostel, he met new people easily with his spontaneous and energetic personality.

“Traveling alone is good because you get to see anywhere you want and you really learn about yourself. Well first off, you learn the curse words of the new languages you ecounter. But then you start to realize that it’s not about the places but more about the people you meet,” he said.

When his solo escapades came to an end, he settled down in Bristol, England, and soon became acquainted with his roommates, who were from Norway, Finland and France. Not only did Bryndza learn about the culture of his roommates, especially through music, but he also imparted American culture on them. When Bryndza mother visited him, she brought pork roll (“taylor ham” for all the North Jersey folks), which his roommates found delicious.

When not amazing his roommates with fine American cuisine, Bryndza traveled to more than 10 countries. He was able to see sights like the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy and Big Ben in London, hear the Quran chanted five times a day in Turkey and visit his uncle who was stationed in Germany with the Air Force.

But of all the places he traveled, his favorite spot was that of his ancestors, Krakow, Poland.

“I grew up eating pierogies and it was cool to go there and experience that,” he said. Bryndza would show his ID to locals there who would say, “Oh, Bryndza!” and start speaking about the cheese popular in Krakow and the southern region of Poland.

“It’s called Bryndza cheese, which is really cool, but it tastes horrible,” he said.

Though he went all over, he wanted to go to many more places like Portugal, Morocco and Eastern European countries like Ukraine. “Once you start traveling, it’s addicting,” he said. After he graduates, he wants to travel to Southern Asia and Japan.

But as exciting and exotic as his travels were, Bryndza was itching to return home in December. “You miss the accent. You miss American people,” he said. “I thought I was going to be saying that ‘America is stupid’ but it made me appreciate my culture.”

Have you recently studied or traveled abroad? Are you a jetsetter as well? E-mail your ideas and stories to gkionis2@tcnj.edu