As her plane touched down again in her home state of New York, Emily Mielcarek watched the clouds and tiny houses whoosh past her plane window. When her feet finally touched American soil, instead of feeling overwhelmed with joy and peace, she immediately felt an empty space in her heart. A desire to turn back around and hop on the next plane flooded her thoughts.
Unfortunately, Mielcarek was forced to leave the airport because her senior year of college was about to begin. Soon after, exams and deadlines would be whooshing by—just like the clouds and tiny houses.
For a moment, she closes her eyes and wants to feel alive again—alive in the sense that she is somewhere else, learning and living in a brand new culture.
This is a familiar feeling for Mielcarek as an International Studies major at Waynesburg University with minors in both Sociology and Theatre. The feeling of “wanderlust,” or the strong desire to travel, is like a sixth sense to her, which is part of the reason why she chose her specific major—and university.
“I actually chose my major around studying abroad because I do love to travel,” Mielcarek said. “When I chose Waynesburg as my university, I made sure that the International Studies major had a study abroad department. It ended up being required for my degree, so I knew I was destined for Waynesburg.”
Prior to returning to the United States, Mielcarek lived in Northern Ireland for five months, studying and falling head-over-heels in love with the culture during the spring and summer of 2016. During her stay, she got to experience the boisterous and short-tempered civilians, the clamor of the pubs and breweries and the crisp cliffs and Scottish architecture.
While in the UK, Mielcarek also had the opportunity to backpack in Belgium, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and the Netherlands.
Although Mielcarek is technically required to travel for academic purposes, she is a firm believer in everyone getting a chance to see the world for themselves.
“As an International Studies major, I feel it's important to go and experience other cultures, live in the countries and truly immerse yourself,” Mielcarek said. “Full immersion is surrendering yourself to another culture, not comparing it to your own.”
Mielcarek is unique at Waynesburg in that she is currently the only International Studies student. Although this created a few bumps in the road when it came to planning for her study abroad program, she said the faith aspect that Waynesburg University offers has helped her to stay calm amongst the storm.
“If it weren’t for the strong faith foundation at Waynesburg, I don’t know where I’d be,” Mielcarek said. “Through the stress of traveling and planning my trip, it was Waynesburg University that kept me grounded.”
After graduation, Mielcarek intends to get her master’s degree and pursue a career in teaching English as a second language. She also hopes to work with refugees, specifically from Burma and southeast Asia. But hopefully before then, Mielcarek will get another chance to lean her head against the headrest of her seat with her plane ticket in hand—just to watch those clouds and tiny houses whoosh by.
Written by: Mattie Winowitch, sophomore communications (journalism) major