Its tough to look back on an experience only after a week and try to reflect on how it has changed you. Its tough to say how my perspectives have changed and what skills I have learned after such a short time. Being surrounded by only new experiences for so long it has become my new normal, when I return home I think I will be able to understand how I have changed from my over two months of international experiences.
After leaving Dublin I got on a flight to central Europe to continue my adventure. Landing in Prague with a train ticket to Vienna and then Budapest already in hand. Unlike my other weekend travels, I took this one alone. I’ve heard amazing things about traveling alone, like a study abroad I was told I would learn things about myself that traveling with friends or family couldn’t teach me. I quickly learned that traveling alone didn’t mean being by yourself the whole time, at least for me it didn’t. The accommodations I booked for myself were all hostels, something unfamiliar to me and most of the people I know back home. The difference between a hostel and a hotel is that hostels offer a more communal style of stay. Most of the rooms have multiple people staying in them, often housing bunkbeds. There are multiple lounge areas, family style meals throughout the day, and some even go out together at night. Hostels create an amazingly friendly atmosphere, and towards the end you become so close to the “volunteers” working there (called that because the employees aren’t paid, simply given room and board) and other guests that when you say goodbye it feels like you are saying goodbye to family, family that you know you probably wont see ever again.
But for some reason that feels like the point. To have an intensely close relationship to complete strangers knowing full well that after a few days you’ll be saying goodbye to them. That’s a new experience for me. It feels that in most new relationships I treat them like they’ll be long term things. Never getting too comfortable with people too fast and building up a good rapport of small talk before asking any personal questions. My relationships back home move so slow in comparison to the people I met through my travels.
Another thing that becomes immediately clear is that all of the decisions are yours alone to make. Where you go, what you do, who you hang out with is nobody’s choice but your own. Not being connected to anyone can give you a sense of loneliness, but also a strong sense of agency. This is where I feel you learn the most about yourself. The answer to the question: What do you want to do? Says a lot about who you are. It turns out, for me, it was my curiosity that I liked to feed. The city’s I stayed at were mostly glossed over during history class and unfortunately, I came in not knowing much about them. Through tours and some individual adventuring I found I really like learning about history of the cities and the culture of the people that live there. Every other tour I have been on came at the direction of a parent or teacher. To do one on my own allowed me to enjoy it more and realize that it is actually something I like to do.
For many, they were told that college is where you find out who you are. Going into my third year I couldn’t agree more. I had already gone through so much change and development in my freshman and sophomore years that I was getting the overconfident thought that I had figured it all out already, that I had condensed what it takes most people to learn in four years into two. Before even coming home from Europe I can see how naive I was. My international internship opened my eyes to how much I don’t know, a valuable first step in beginning to be able to learn more. I don’t know if I am able to see all of the new perspectives that my experience has given me, I imagine I will soon find out once I am back at school. What I can say for certain now though is how much I enjoyed my time in Europe this summer. Every day I am reminded of the sheer ridiculousness of me living in Dublin for a summer and traveling over Europe with my friends and classmates. They are memories I will never forget and experiences I will always remember.