Monday, May 4, 2009

A semester that felt like a lifetime...looking back on my 13 weeks in Europe

So the time that I never thought would come finally has...going home! I personally feel that our time here was just right, had we only been here only a few short weeks I would have felt like there were so many things I didn't get to see but had we been here any longer I think I might have gone crazy.

Throughout my 13 weeks I've faced personal challenges as well as physical ones. I never realized train schedules, tickets, and reservations could be so complicated! Especially during the time I spent traveling from Paris to Spain and back to Vienna during spring break really opened my eyes to how your plans can change faster than you know what hit you. I learned very quickly that many people in other countries will judge you because you're American and although this isn't right the world is not perfect and neither are people. This encouraged me even more to plan numerous routes to my destination in case my first and/or second and third plan fell through. On a personal level I can definitely say I'm much direction savvy now. I trust myself with a map and I'm now able to get myself places and not have to rely on anyone else.

Some of the more personal challenges I faced was learning how to deal with others and be more tolerable of people in general. Especially when there is a language barrier it's easier to become frustrated and not want to try at all. By the end of this trip I can definitely say I have a lot more tolerance and patience for all people in general, this including the other Americans attending the trip.

Some of the smaller issues to touch upon revolved mostly around time management. Trying to focus on schoolwork and your next trip to Italy or Amsterdam is not always so easy. Discipline and hard work definitely came into play when it came down to choosing between work or play.

I think I learned the most by experiencing it first hand being out and about in Austria and some of the other places I visited. Most of the time it was the small things that mattered the most. Meeting people from all over the world on the trains, in the streets, at restaurants, what have you. It's completely true when they say first-hand experience is always the best way to learn. Even some of the bad things were really learning experiences that helped me to put things into perspective.

Overall my best memories of this trip are all random times that made me laugh or cry that really made the trip what it is and helped me to grow as an individual. Although the 12 of us didn't always get along that was to be expected and we always found a way to get over it.

I know after being in Europe for 13 weeks I have definitely come to appreciate home and America in general so much more than I use to. There are so many small things that you take for granted daily that you would never think twice about...driving your car, eating home cooked meals, efficient and quick laundry, family and friends, pets, and even just the fact that you can walk into a store and people speak English.

Through the ups and downs, the goods and bads, it is finally time to say goodbye to Europe and move forward with all the knowledge and memories I have gained from the past 13 weeks.
Malaga, Spain

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