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A Skip Across the Pond

The Louvre

Now and again, I find myself reminiscing on the single greatest experience of my young adult life; rather, my entire life.  For three weeks in college, I had the incredible opportunity to explore Eastern Europe as part of a study abroad program.  I had no idea what to expect and while I was nervous to leave my home country, it was hard to turn down an opportunity as grand as this.  Little did I know, these 21 days would forever change my perspective, and without this experience, I wouldn’t be anywhere close to the person I am today.  

After applying for countless internships and jobs in my area, I had lost all hope in finding any productive venture for my summer break.  Companies were looking for someone older, someone with more experience, or a better degree.  It was about time to weigh my options, scarce as they were.  Anxiety gripped me.  What would I do?  It seems that in this day and age, internships are all but necessary to earn a job out of school.  What kind of horrible student would I be if I didn’t earn an internship?!

Just as Xanax seemed to be the only valid option to hedge my stress levels, a professor visited my class to present a unique academic experience, available only to students.  It was the International Business Seminar; a three week program that took students across Europe to visit both economic and cultural points of interest.  As a college student, I certainly didn’t have the money for such a thing and I wouldn’t even allow myself to entertain the thought of pursuing this.  How wasteful it would be to get so excited over something that would never happen!

At the close of the week, I went home to visit family and friends.  As usual, my father asked how things were coming along with the job search.  Me, being the smart-ass that I am, quipped back in a sarcastic tone.  “Not good, but I’m thinking about studying abroad instead!”  I fully expected him to laugh in my face and move on to another subject.  My statement was intended to be nothing more than a joke, but something interesting happened.  Instead of brushing me off as I expected him to do, his eyes grew wide with intrigue.  He grilled me with questions about the program and a discussion blossomed from this seed of a question.  Before long my mother interjected and mentioned that the two of them would need some time to talk.  What?!  No way!  We’re actually considering this?   After a brief discussion, they ended by agreeing to support me in studying abroad by effectively matching the scholarships I’d earn for it!

With that, I was on my way to a great adventure.  I was set to depart to a faraway land; across the ocean and a step back in time.  I was about to discover a place rich with history, culture, fashion and cuisine.  I was ready to embark on the greatest journey of my entire life.

In my trip I saw things I never dreamed I would see in my lifetime.  In London, I saw Tower Bridge and Big Ben.  I drank wine under the Eiffel Tower in Paris and gazed into the eyes of The Mona Lisa.  I walked in the footsteps of Michelangelo in Florence and flew with hawks off of the Swiss Alps.  The experience was breathtaking and it is something that I’ll never forget.

Even as I type this, my eyes fill with tears as I think about the unbelievable times I had and the great people I met along the way.  I miss each of them everyday and I would trade anything to go back and experience this all over again.  There is little that makes me as happy, or sad, as looking back on the photos I took during this incredible journey.

In an effort to relive the memories, I’ll be making posts on each city I visited to share with the world.  I hope you all enjoy my fond recollections and perhaps very soon, my path will cross with the magical place known as Europe once again.  Until then, this is as close as I can hope to get :/

An enormous thank you goes out to my parents and extended family for helping me make this dream become a reality.  This trip has changed me at my core and without knowing it, you’ve all inspired me to live my live to the fullest and with no regrets.  Without going on this trip, I still wouldn’t have flown alone, I would have never discovered my love for travel, and I’d be stuck in a cubicle somewhere in Chicago dreaming about what could have been.  It is because of you that I’ve ended up where I am now in Grand Teton National Park and it is because of you that I’ve realized all that more is possible in life than one could ever imagine.  For this I am sincerely appreciative and I’d like to say once again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for all that you’ve done.

Europe is just the beginning.  “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”  -Susan Sontag

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Scott Kochetta #

    Not sure what it is that prevents so many in this world from asking for help. I know I’m guilty of attempting to be an island unto myself. I suppose the mindset is that one can always look back and revel in what ‘I’ did. How piggish. NOTHING I’ve accomplished or possess has come without support. For that matter, some of my most satisfying moments as a parent have come from when I feel needed…by my children.

    Sure, you were expected to pay us back for the car loan, but not out of guilt…that set up was there only to provide a life’s lesson on the importance of repaying a debt. It’s my hope that our children will continue to approach us in times of need, without reservation. ‘Ask and you shall receive’ has always been a helpful mantra that has never let me down. OK, maybe easier said than done, but it works. Whether it’s requests of my parents, coworkers, or my creator. The key is, I believe, to use the gifts given to you honorably & responsibly. That’s one area that you surely succeed.

    I’ll let you in on a secret…the decision to get you studying abroad was an easy one for your mother & I as, through your actions, we knew it was a solid investment. Ask anyone 🙂

    July 6, 2013
    • You are absolutely correct in your analysis. I believe that it is pride that holds so many of us back from receiving assistance, myself included.

      I admit that I feel guilty for good fortune because others don’t enjoy the same. My friend was just in Haiti watching children smile because they were getting shoes for their feet. How can I be ok with accepting any more than I need?

      I know there is merit in this way of thinking but it is an impossible way to go through life. Just as there will always be a bigger fish in the ocean, there will always be a smaller one as well. I’m somewhere in the middle of the food chain and on my journey through life, hopefully I can recognize that the good in my life shouldn’t be unwelcome. Who knows where saying yes and simply asking might get me in the future?! I’ll never know if I never try 🙂

      July 6, 2013
  2. Grandma K #

    We’ll be in London next week for four days (2 before & 2 after our cruise to St. Petersburg, Russia, Berlin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Tallinn & Helsinki. We do have some tours planned for London and have set aside some time for exploring on our own in London before we head to the “White Cliffs of Dover,” to board our ship. Do you have any “not-to-be-missed” sites that you would recommend?

    July 6, 2013
    • I’d highly recommend Camden Town Market. There you’ll find stables that were converted to shops. It’s just a vibrant place that really brings the city to life. Might be a little touristy but hey, what place isn’t that’s worthwhile. Also, enjoy a lunch in view of the Tower Bridge. You can’t beat eating Fish and Chips while gazing at this wonderful structure. Also, eat a proscuitto sandwich from a place called Pret a Manger! You won’t regret it. Don’t forget the changing of the guard either! I think those are my must sees. I think you both will really enjoy the Kensington area as well.

      Last thing! I can’t believe I almost forgot my favorite place in the world…Trafalgar Square. Free museum with beautiful works of art (check out the Venice section), people watching, sculptures, and a vibe that I haven’t found anywhere else in the world. Such a marvelous place.

      July 6, 2013

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