Geneva, Switzerland?the land where private banks flourish, little white dogs sniff around from the ends of every leash, cuckoo clocks yodel hourly in tourist shops, bureaucrats from international organizations flock to the many shiny glass-blue towers, and a water jet shoots 400 feet up from the lake for no other reason than because it looks cool.

Studying abroad in Geneva for four months while living with a 62-year-old non-English speaking woman from Spain is so far proving to be quite different from a semester on the coast of Maine, and that's not just because my room here is pink.

Carmen, the "Madame" who is renting me a room in her apartment for the semester, is not your average roommate. She loquaciously speaks French and Spanish as if she were paid by the word, is more obsessed with cleanliness than Full House's Danny Tanner, likes watching game shows like Swiss Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and goes out with friends until 3:00 a.m. some weekends (I don't ask). A solid plus is the wireless network "Voodoo Jean" that I can access from the balcony. The apartment's artworks include portraits of James Dean, Elvis, and the lovely Marilyn Monroe.

Studying government and economics and interning with a human rights law commission has taken up most of my time in Geneva, leaving the weekends to travel?during which I have had several unexpected experiences. For instance, I traveled to Milan to see the world-renowned cathedral, unknown to me that the entire façade would be covered with scaffolding Bowdoin-chapel-style times two.

In Cologne, I was lucky enough to witness drunk Germans attempting to sing along with "Surfin' USA" on a jukebox at a bar. In Berlin, I sprained my hand trying to chip off a piece of the wall. Note to self that that wall is very, very hard. It was also funny trying to understand a man explain to me?in Danish charades?that the train has pulled into a ferry-ship for an hour-crossing of the Baltic Sea and you can get off and walk around the deck.

When flying into London City Airport, the authorities almost put me on the next plane back to Geneva because I didn't have the proper "credibility." Long story with various misunderstandings. When you do make it past customs in London, I would recommend finding the correct Abbey Road on a map before you seek to capture a touristy pose where John, Paul, Ringo, and George once walked. I spent an afternoon finding the wrong one in Stratford on the East End?a road with no more international significance than Brunswick's Potter Street.

Of course, world politics come into greater scope with international travel as well. Despite the fact that President Bush is the least popular American President in Europe in history, I've encountered little, if any, serious anti-American sentiments while traveling. Maybe that is because the Swiss are neutral, or that I've spent only a little time in France thus far. Although the jokes have been rather free flowing.

When telling a Belgian man that I was from the United States, he responded by first absurdly joking how they're "lucky the Bush administration hasn't bombed Belgium yet," then noted how white and straight Americans' teeth are, and finally, said how great his trip to Orlando was a few years ago. I've met other tourists along the way too, such as when I chatted with a Japanese girl in the Basel train station. She was quite excited about her "life-changing" experience years ago when she saw the infamous 90s a capella group Boyz II Men at a concert in Detroit. When she asked with an astonishingly hopeful face if I liked the group too, I just replied, "Who doesn't?" I guess she liked Michigan. She then said, "Koizumi and Bush friends," acting it out by shaking her two hands together. "He's a silly cowboy, haha."

However, I've appreciated how many Europeans and other travelers have been able to put the current political disagreements aside and recognize America's core spirit?that has endured throughout dozens of good and bad Presidential administrations; some mentioning "generosity" or "opportunity." Overall, I've found most Europeans to be quite welcoming and friendly, and many parts of the continent to be naturally and culturally intriguing. Delicious fondue, too.