A Skip Across the Pond
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