PALs 2019-2020 Living as a Visitor

May 3, 2021
By Juliann Barbella, CAS '21

Juliann Barbella, a senior studying cinema and media studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, studied abroad at Trinity College Dublin in Dublin, Ireland in 2019. During the 2020-2021 academic year, Juliann is serving as a Penn Abroad Leader, which is Penn Abroad’s student advisory board focused on special projects and supporting fellow students interested in global experiences. 

When I was preparing to live in a city - one that I had never even visited - for four months, I had assumed that I would instantly feel at home. I grew up right outside of New York City and now go to school in Philadelphia, so I am entranced by the idea of the hustle and bustle of a city. However, my living situation abroad was definitely not what I expected, particularly because the college that I was attending was situated in the heart of Dublin and I was not. My off campus living situation posed as a much bigger obstacle than I assumed it would. Though the majority of my friends lived in the same building as me, I was at least a 30-minute walk from most attractions. After a few weeks of only having explored Dublin in the bubbles around my host college (Trinity College Dublin) and my dorm, I knew that I needed to venture out. I had obtained a student bus pass from Trinity and began to use it more. I went to a Galway versus Kilkenny camogie game, joined more clubs at Trinity and made friends who recommended local activities, saw friends perform at pubs throughout the city, and never ate at the same place twice. My breaking out of the confines of my daily walk along the River Liffey really helped me approach my remaining time at Penn.  

Walk along River Liffey


Though the semesters after I returned to Philly were limited by the pandemic, I was determined to further explore the city. Prior to my experience abroad, I had a nice routine of studying at coffee shops, spending time with friends, and returning to my apartment. However, I wanted to make sure that the city where I resided felt like a home. I struggled with this in Dublin because I was very aware of my being a visitor. It is a similar situation in Philly, though when I returned last year, I brought home a desire to connect with my community. Being respectful of your fellow residents when occupying their space is incredibly important when moving and traveling. I hoped to fully explore Philadelphia while centering its history and other’s experiences. Specifically amidst Covid, I have been able to participate in activities around Philly while also making sure that I was not putting anyone at risk. Ethical tourism constantly weighs on my mind, and I am always learning how to consciously live in a new city as a visitor. Supporting local businesses, not exploiting the wildlife, respectfully taking photographs, and just keeping in mind that you are there to appreciate the surroundings is important. I am grateful for my experience abroad for informing the way I both live at Penn and travel elsewhere.  

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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.