I was born with the travel bug. I assume it’s a byproduct of my mom, who first snuck under her parents’ noses and traveled to Europe in high school with a friend, claiming it was a school trip, and then did a stint as a traveling nurse. Though I’ve done a bit of traveling myself, I’ve visited only a small percentage of the countries, towns, and landmarks on my never-ending list of must-see places. But now, for me and most of my peers, classes and money are looming obstacles in the way of airplane tickets and Airbnb stays. Though I enjoy college life, I must admit it’s not as exhilarating as a trip to Banff or getting lost in Slovenia. Fortunately, I discovered a place on campus that allows students to “travel” without having to pay a dime.
The Mills International Center is tucked away in a corner of the EMU. I remember stumbling into it on a rainy day of my freshman year, aggravated with classes, dining hall food, and living in Bean. I was instantly relieved. Entering the room is no different from walking into an old friend’s house. Its warm, wood-paneled walls surround intricately patterned ottomans and soft mustard-colored couches strewn across its expanse. A fireplace sits at the both ends of the room, and flyers for multicultural nights, language circles, and study abroad info sessions are scattered across the front desk. My favorite part is the bookshelves. They are stuffed with everything from detailed travel guides to Venice and Portugal to punchy fashion publications from Korea, thick Latin American cookbooks, and entrancing CDs from every corner of the planet. Curling up on the couch with a coffee and a magazine is an easy gateway to getting lost in a different part of the world and (accidentally) forgetting to go to class.
But the Mills Center is not only a place for daydreaming and researching. When it comes to studying and finals week, I personally can’t find solace in the fluorescent lights and dead silence that many students thrive on in the library. Instead, I find refuge in studying while immersed in the selection of world music that swims around the room and the quiet chatter of people speaking a multitude of languages. The people working there are just as welcoming as the center’s atmosphere. No matter which staff member you ask, they’ll reassuringly tell you that should you ever need a place to nap, eat lunch, or relax, the Mills International Center is available.
I have discovered a host of new places, magazines, and cultures from the time I’ve spent there. I even found an internship in London thanks to a discovery I made during one of my visits. The Mills International Center has transported me both physically and mentally, and for that I am grateful. It provides colorful, informative resources for curious students who can’t jet set to foreign places on a whim. If you take a moment to stop by, don’t forget to bury your head in a book. You never know where in the world you might end up.
—By Melissa Epifano
Melissa Epifano is a journalism major who’s interested in fashion, art, and travel writing.