- DIVER: Monroe Mann
- NATIVE COUNTRY: USA
- CATEGORY: Adventurer
- DIVE: Expat
- LEVEL: 1
- REQUIREMENTS: Has lived in a foreign country for at least 6 consecutive months
When and why did you decide to live abroad?
I was a sophomore at Furman University in Greenville, SC. I was bored down there, and so I decided I wanted to study overseas as well. I investigated the school’s travel abroad programs, but because the school was on a trimester system, their study abroad programs too were on the trimester system, i.e. a few months. But I didn’t want to go abroad and then come home as soon as I started to get settled. I wanted to actually live over there, and become like a native. So I began the search for a study abroad program that lasted at least a year. I couldn’t find anything. I distinctly remember searching on Yahoo and the year was 1996. In the fall. I finally searched instead for ‘European universities for Americans’ or something like that–I have no idea what I searched for actually–but I do remember the very first result. Franklin College. Lugano, Switzerland. And when I clicked, and saw this photo from the campus overlooking beautiful palm trees and magical Lake Lugano, I fell in love immediately, and knew that this was where I wanted to transfer to
How long did it take for you to accomplish this dive from the day you decided to pursue it, and why did it take that long?
From the moment I found Franklin’s website until the day I arrived in Switzerland was about 1 year. While searching, I was still a student at Furman, and I had also just been accepted to American University’s Washington Semester program. So during spring of 1997, while at AU, I applied to Franklin College, was accepted, and best part, they agreed to transfer all my credits from Furman, and also all my credits from my Washington Semester program (where I wrote a monster-size research paper on European Monetary Union, which was about to happen two years later). Best part: I earned a scholarship, and with the scholarship, it would cost less than either NYU or BU, two other places I was thinking of applying to. I was really excited about heading to Switzerland.
My AU friend, Rachael, however, threw an exciting wrench into my plans. She knew that I was really into acting, and found this advertisement for the AADA (American Academy of Dramatic Arts) summer program in Manhattan. My sister and I both auditioned, both were accepted, and that summer, I ended up being chosen to audition for the part of Michelle Pfeiffer’s son in the film, “Deep End of the Ocean”. I didn’t get the part, but I had a blast that summer, and I began to doubt my plans to go to Europe: I WANTED TO STAY IN NYC AND ACT!
However, after some thinking, and discussion with friends and family, I made a pact with myself: I would go to Lugano. I would stay there for two years. I would graduate with a BA degree. And then, after two years, if I still yearned to pursue acting, I would know that it was a true life pursuit. And with that fair-minded agreement in mind, around the end of summer, 1997, I packed up my bags, and my mom drove me to JFK airport in NYC for what would be two of the most formative years of my life: studying abroad at (what is now) Franklin University Switzerland.
What do you think is the hardest & easiest part about this dive and level?
Hardest part absolutely is the homesickness and culture shock. When I arrived, I had a blast for the first two weeks. Speaking Italian! Gelato! The Swiss trains! The beautiful Alps! The adventure of being abroad and meeting all these people from around the world! My awesome apartment dorm above Ristorante Giardino! It was a dream come true! And then, two weeks later, I hated it. I called home constantly. Crying. The restaurants all closed early. I couldn’t communicate easily off campus. I kept getting lost. I missed the USA. That first semester was really tough. And I was on the verge of packing up and leaving every week it feels like. I remember that payphone on the street outside my dorm apartment. I say ‘dorm apartment’ because they really were apartments. I think they were owned by the restaurant, and leased to the school. I had 4 roommates: Rifat from Bangledesh, Christian from Germany, Luca from Italy, and our good friend, the writer, from the USA. All students at Franklin. My window looked out onto the street in front, Via Ponte Tresa. Behind us up the hill was a vineyard and a church, the bells from which tolled each Sunday. A short walk down the street and we’d arrive at the train station and funiculare, which took us down the mountain into the center of Lugano, and the beautiful views of the lake. And true Italian pizza shops wherever you looked. Bottom line, it was idyllic. It’s for this reason that I made another pact with myself: stay until Christmas break. Go home to visit then and decide whether I wanted to come back. Well, I came home, realized I missed Lugano as soon as I got back, and after that I returned to Switzerland, and didn’t leave Europe again again for an entire 12 months.
The easiest part about living abroad for 6 months? It’s so much fun. You meet so many fascinating people. Your life opens up in so many ways. And if you love learning foreign languages, it makes it much easier to practice every day
What is your advice for someone who is pursuing this dive and level?
Be prepared for homesickness and culture shock the first time. Going on a 2 week vacation somewhere, knowing you are going home soon, and knowing you don’t have to really unpack your bags is a lot different than planting seeds there and recognizing that when the going gets tough, you’re still there. The best advice: remember my story. If I had given up, I would have missed out on a 2-year adventure there, and I wouldn’t have grown incredibly in strength and self-confidence, and I wouldn’t have learned to speak French and Italian. The homesickness and culture shock will (probably) disappear after some time. For me, it took 3 months. And powering through that ‘growing up’ period and learning how to ‘live on my own’ in a foreign land was and is one of my proudest accomplishments in life, resulting in many more similar long-term adventures in foreign countries later in my life
How did you prove you met the requirements for this level?
Transcripts from Franklin College Switzerland shared with members of the Break Diving staff.
Tell us a story from your time abroad! (At least 5 paragraphs)
Behind the apartment was ‘il trenino’ (the little train) and I remember taking it into town one stop the first week I was there. There was no station really–I walked down into a field, and there was a little sign, and apparently I waited for the train there. Low and behold, it did come, and I climbed up on the train, arrived in downtown Lugano, and did some sightseeing. Later, I returned to the train station, got on the train again, and since Lugano was the last stop, and knowing that I only had to go back one stop, I knew I was going in the right direction, and that it wouldn’t be a long ride. Well, the train never stopped. It zoomed past my field, and just kept going. I figured it would stop again at the next stop, wherever that was. It did not. It just kept going. And no one was on the train. It was completely empty. What was going on? Where was I going? Well, after what seemed like forever… it stopped. I got off. IN ITALY. Ponte Tresa, to be precise. After some fumbling around, I found someone who explained what happened. It was like a bus: you had to push the button on the side of the train if you wanted it to stop at the next stop. The mystery was solved! More importantly, I visited Italy for the first time, completed my first broken conversation in Italian, and earned my first story of adventure from living abroad! Oh how I smile looking back on my first expat adventure! And I can’t wait to go back to Lugano and go on the trenino to Ponte Tresa again! This time… on purpose! Ha.
Will you be pursuing the next level? If so, what is the next level, and what is your plan? If not, why not?
I’ve lived overseas many times since then, so definitely want to get recognized for those adventures. I also plan on more overseas adventures soon too!
And having made this post, and provided adequate evidence to the dive committee, Monroe Mann is now hereby certified by Break Diving, Inc. as: ADVENTURER – EXPAT – LEVEL 1. Congratulations Monroe! Thank you for being an inspiration to others!
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