Semester Abroad, Global Correspondents Cats, Canals, and Carnevale: Stumbling into New Experiences

April 3, 2024
By Anoushka Ambavanekar, Wharton '24

Anoushkaone of the Semester Abroad Global Correspondents, shares her experience abroad during the Spring 2024 semester. Follow along with the group of correspondents on our blog and look out for their images on the @pennabroad Instagram feed.

AnoushkaIn the beginning of February, I had the opportunity to check off one of the coolest items on my bucket list - celebrating Carnevale in Venice. While many countries throughout Europe celebrate some form of Carnevale, Venice is one of the cities best known for the elaborate costumes and masks people wear to celebrate. This was my first time visiting Venice and I was blown away by the beauty of the city. Every street and cobblestoned alleyway was filled with color and the canals were truly as beautiful as every picture makes them look.

I was incredibly excited for this trip, because I was meeting some friends from Penn who were also on exchange in Europe. However, I was arriving half a day before everyone else, and I was nervous about exploring a new city on my own. “Maybe I’ll just sit in a cafe until they get here,” I had thought to myself. Upon arriving, I found a suitable cafe, ordered a cappuccino, and sat for a bit. Upon finishing my coffee, I looked around at the vibrant city and realized how wrong it felt to be sitting inside alone when I could be out exploring. I stepped out and started wandering through the streets - no Google maps, no guide, just exploring whichever narrow alley I found interesting.

CanalsGetting to visit during Carnevale was a dream. As I strolled down streets, people walked past dressed in the most beautiful dresses and detailed masks, as if they had walked straight out of a painting. Circus performers juggled on stages in St. Mark’s square and children dressed in costumes ran through the streets, throwing confetti from little bags.

Eventually, I stumbled into a local artist’s shop in the Jewish Quarter, run by an artist by the name of Michal Meron. Michal’s paintings were incredibly colorful and depicted the celebration of Carnevale along the Venetian canals. I had the opportunity to speak to her about the history of the Jewish Quarter, her immigration to Italy 20 years ago, and her lovely cats, who she often hid in her paintings for people to find. Before I left, I purchased a print of a colorful painting of Carnevale (with plenty of hidden cats) and even got to pick out a few complimentary bookmarks. As I stepped out of the shop, I realized that I had almost let my fear stop me from experiencing my favorite part of traveling - spontaneous discoveries and meeting unique people. I was also reminded of one of the most important rules of travel: sometimes you need to forget the itinerary, let go of the maps, turn off TripAdvisor, and just explore!

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The Semester Abroad (SA) program offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study in a new global community through extended study for a semester or year. Penn Abroad partners with top institutions around the globe and collaborates with Penn’s undergraduate schools to offer programs for students across academic disciplines.

The Meadows
Semester Abroad, Global Correspondents
by Anna Zhou, SEAS '25