For spring break this semester, my roommates and I wanted to take full advantage of the ease of interEuropean travel. And, with it being the first time Emily and I had been to Europe at all, we wanted to see as much as we could in just that one, free week.
So, one night, without any prior consideration, we decided to book a flight to Paris. (One of my favorite parts of traveling from Italy is that any spontaneous, week-of trips can be to cities I never imagined I would see so soon in my life). From there, we made plans to meet our two other roommates, Leila and Abby, in Vienna, Austria. The four of us would then take a train from Vienna to Prague, and finish our vacation in Munich before taking an overnight bus home.
And, while we would be traveling for 10 days, our airline policies (and the convenience of our own travel) required that we bring only one, small bag. So, we packed only what we could fit in our book bags, which was roughly four outfits – perfect for touring four countries.
I took my last midterm Thursday afternoon, followed by a shift at Eataly, and rushed home to pack before our early train to Pisa that next morning. From there, Emily and I made our way to the airport, flew to Paris, and walked. We walked through the entire city. We walked to the Notre Dame, the Siene, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and the catacombs, just to name a few. And from the second we stepped off that first plane, from each city in each country, we did not stop walking. In just one week, we had walked over one hundred miles each. And every step was worth it. Because they led me to the works of Gustav Klimt in Vienna, across the Charles Bridge and to the Franz Kafka museum in Prague, and through the old bunks of the Dachau concentration camp outside of Munich.
And while each step was undoubtedly worthwhile, they weren’t always easy. If I had any advice to give to students studying abroad, whether you’re staying in your home city, country, or traveling throughout your continent – its that something is always going to go wrong, and its going to happen relatively often. For example, when I had stopped in an Austrian bank to withdraw some money, the machine ate my card. I can calmly type that sentence now, but at the time, I was less than calm – we were only halfway through our week and I had no access to my money. One phonecall later, we found that it was because my bank had issued updated cards, and canceled my current card after shipping a new one to my home, in Pennsyvania. I had to use the rest of my cash and rely on my dear friend Emily and Venmo for the rest of our break.
But, this is just one small example, too. All of those instagram posts you see don’t show the nights you sleep in airports, the delayed trains, or the fumbled encounters with people of different cultures and languages. But, thats possibly the greatest source of learning while abroad. All of those hard times are what make you grow so dramatically – because you have to.
So, in short, try your best to welcome those hard times. Remember that they could be worse, and at the end of the day, you are alive, and you are abroad, and you are better because of it.