Monday, April 20, 2020

Austin Takes Malta!

Hello! My name is Austin Rowland and I am a 20 year old full-honors student majoring in Arts Administration with a minor in Drama. In Spring 2020, I had the incredible opportunity to go abroad to Malta with the LIHC program. Although my time in Malta was cut short after a month due to COVID-19, my month there was incredibly eventful. Not only were the students supportive and kind of my situation and culture, there was not a single resident that I met that did not give kindness to me as I made my way around Malta. The biggest aspect of being abroad that frightened me was the acceptance of the Maltese- a problem by which I never discovered at all!

Austin and Jimmy The Dragon

While in Malta, I took 2 theatre study units while also having a dual-enrollment in two online courses at UNCG. This was very manageable, and worked out to where I only had to go to campus one day a week, and the other 6 days of the week could be spent exploring! I resided in a Hotel which serves students “dorm style”. My room was cleaned for me, there was breakfast served here, and there was a swimming pool. The area was very quiet and calm, and I did not once worry about my safety or have to deal with noise or theft. I also did not have a roommate, so it was nice and secluded.  My classes were full of students who understood me, supported me, and wanted to get to know me. That is just simply their nature. Kindness. We went out constantly, whether it be restaurants, or Malta’s capital city, Valletta.

Me and other UNCG students in Malta

I missed America as soon as I stepped onto the plane. In fact, my first question when I arrived at my residence was: “where is the nearest McDonald’s?”. There was luckily one in walking distance from where I was standing. However, as I discovered the amazing locally cooked pasta, squid, rabbit, and other endeavors- McDonald’s was a joke. I was also lucky to be in walking distance of the nearest LIDL, making grocery shopping effective, quick, and fun!

The highlight of my trip was taking the Game of Thrones filming tour. I am a die-hard Game of Thrones fan and the film tour did not disappoint! Primarily, the film tour covered "Game of Thrones", but also covered other media such as "World War Z", "Popeye", "Gladiator" and "Helen of Troy". I saw almost everything that went into filming Season One of the HBO award-winning show, and my tour guide was a crew member who worked on the show himself! The tour lasted all day, and took me around almost the entire island. I got to see where Cersei Lannister muttered the title line “When you play the Game Of Thrones, you win, or you die.”

You Win or You Die! (Game Of Thrones Tour)

I also got to see the amazing cliff dwelling by which Daeynerys gave birth to her dragons in the Season One finale. 

Dragon Birth Scene (GoT tour)

These two scenes are probably the most iconic of the show, and all my fellow fans back home demanded to see all the photos when I returned.

King's Landing Gate

The biggest disappointment about my experience being cut short was that I had planned to do so much. I had a trip to London planned on Mother’s Day weekend, birthday plans for my 21st in June with my Maltese friends, and other nights in the town which would be unforgettable. It was an emotional time as I packed up quickly, hopped into a taxi, and went home before cases of COVID-19 peaked in Malta. I speak with absolute confidence that my month there was as great as it could have been and I would change nothing. Malta is cool, calm, and collective, with people willing to include you and welcome you as their own. I hope to go back one day and reunite with the friends I had to say goodbye to so suddenly.

Popeye Village!