Growing up, my family never really traveled much. The first time I left the states was a trip to the Caribbean that left me with a face that looked as though I’d just gone ten rounds with Muhammad Ali. The doctor said sun poisoning but my mom insists it was a jelly fish the size of a small boat that stung me. Needless to say, my parents weren’t exactly well-versed in travel.
Years later, right after my 21st birthday, I was fortunate enough to get the chance to leave home once again. The study abroad program at my school gave me the opportunity to spend three months studying at City University in London, England. My college roommate Katie and I packed our bags this past January, and for the first time ever said goodbye to our parents and we caught a ride across the pond!
After settling in after a few days, we were already struggling to remember why we came. Between the dreary rain playing with my mood and trying to pinch pennies on a college budget in London, I found that I was spending most of my time doing the same old things with Katie that we’d do back at home.
After three weeks, I went on a weekend trip to Paris with Katie and a few other friends we met in our program. Paris dazzled me. From the Pont de l’Archevêché, to the Louvre, to the Eiffel Tower, everywhere we went brought a sparkle to my eye and a drumming to my heart. We ate dinner at a fondue restaurant with graffitied walls where we drank wine out of baby bottles and crawled over tables to sit down. Every experience felt brand new and exciting, and every corner, street, and alley in Paris held an exquisite beauty. I felt like I was on a new planet filled with magic and romance.
Just one weekend in Paris opened my eyes to the brilliance of London. I began to appreciate how lucky I was to be in this amazing city with charming accents, backwards streets, and delicious beer. I grew more accustomed to my environment and all there was to see and learn around me. I didn’t find my true fondness for London until a week later, when I fell for a Brit in a club on Valentine’s Day.
I was swept away by Kit immediately, and after we met we couldn’t keep away from each other. Almost everyday we were going on dates around London, exploring different boroughs and restaurants. Kit wanted to make sure that I experienced the “real” London. I met his friends and saw parts of London I never would have seen if I hadn’t connected with a local.
During our spring break, or Reading Week as the Brits say, Katie and I backpacked around Rome, Siena, Florence, Venice, and Barcelona in a period of 12 days. We took dirt-cheap flights and stayed in cheap hostels, each one more fun and bizarre than the next. Rome was surreal. Walking wide-eyed through the Colosseum and making wishes in the Trevi Fountain felt like a dream. That dream quickly turned into a nightmare when we got pick-pocketed on the subway. We said “ciao” to Rome, and hopped on a train to Siena.
Although the gothic, medieval city of Siena had me terrified that a vampire might suck my blood at any given moment, I marveled at the breath-taking architecture. Following Siena, we spent a few days chain-smoking through the streets of Florence, an artist’s dream. I had my “aha moment” atop the Pizzale Michaelangelo where I cried tears of joy with an overwhelming sense of awe and gratitude that I was lucky enough to experience this.
While Siena and Florence had charm, we didn’t understand euphoria a city could hold until we arrived in Venice. It was the last day of Carnevale, and the city with buzzing with life and exhilaration. Now, don’t get me wrong, Venice on it’s own is absolutely stunning. With its lovely canals and gondola rides, the city is the epitome of romance; Carnevale just makes it extra special. The streets were swarmed with those in costumes, masquerade masks, and fancy dresses. Children were throwing sparkles in the air, and there was music humming through every street and alley. We met up with attractive Venice natives, who were friends of friends. They took us to St. Mark’s Square where everyone was drinking, smoking, dancing and singing in the streets. We danced through the streets of Venice until 4 a.m. with these amazing people, and it was definitely one of the most exceptional moments of my life.
After Venice, Katie and I stayed with friends in Barcelona, and spent the best of our time taking advantage of its famous nightlife, dancing our hearts out until sunrise, and nursing our hangovers with delicious Vegetable Paella in the afternoons.
We enjoyed the rest of our stay in London exploring the city, meeting new people, and having new adventures every week. I had a really hard time saying goodbye to Kit and everyone I met in London, but I believe it’s the connections you make with people from different cultures that makes life so extraordinary. I will always cherish those first three months in Europe that opened my eyes to how big, yet how small our beautiful world is. And all I can say is, it’s not goodbye, but I’ll see you later.