Insights: news and views from the International Center

International Center

University of Missouri

Five new countries in four weeks

I don’t even know where to start when trying to explain how this month has been. It has been by far the best month of my life. Including being in London, I have been to six countries in the last month and it has been the most amazing experience. The first trip that I took was to Amsterdam. It was the beginning of our 17-day long spring break and it was such a great place to start our break.

Amsterdam was unreal — I guess I’ve only seen a couple pictures of Amsterdam where they had all those beautiful canals, but I had no idea that every new street was a canal. Honestly it was amazing, everything about it took my breath away. Another plus to the trip was that the weather was amazing! Seeing sun was the best part because London is pretty much dark and raining 24 hours a day and it starts to get depressing, so going to Amsterdam where it was sunny for the majority of the day was so refreshing. The first day we went to the Van Gogh Museum because that was one of the top things on our list to do and I’m so glad we did it. It’s so weird because before coming to Europe I never really appreciated art. Of course I thought it was beautiful, but I didn’t really get the whole going-to-museums-all-the-time thing. But being here for a couple months has changed my feelings about art and it’s so weird how going to a museum is one of my favorite things to do now. Back to Van Gogh, I was in awe the whole time being in the museum. The way that he uses his colors and the strokes of his brush had me staring at each piece of work for at least a couple minutes. He has such a different way of painting that’s hard to explain, but when you look at the way that his paintings are made and the different colors and detailing in every piece, it’s very obvious why Van Gogh is such an international star in the art world. The next day we just explored Amsterdam and all the wonders that it had to offer, we pretty much just ate (which is always my favorite part of the day) and walked around because the architecture was just so different than what I was used to back in London and it was so refreshing. On our last day we went to the Anne Frank House. As depressing and sad as it was, I’m so glad that we were able to make a visit to the house. The first half was going through the actual house, which was sad just knowing that the rooms I was walking through were the same rooms that Anne and her family walked through every day for years when they were in hiding. Just thinking about not being able to leave my house for years is depressing, but being in hiding because the risk of being caught could end your life is just something no one should ever have to experience. I remember reading “The Diary of Anne Frank” in elementary school and being able to see the real diaries in person was a true blessing. After going through the house there was a museum that showed artifacts about the holocaust and other things about the many people that died because of their religion and nationality. There was a short video on Anne Frank at the end which interviewed celebrities and her father, the only person in the family who survived. He talked about how Anne’s dream was to be a famous writer, and it gives me such happiness that in the end, even though she died, she still was able to become the famous writer that she dreamed about. Later that night we went to the Sam Smith concert, which was by far the best concert I have ever been to. He had just won four Grammy’s a couple weeks before, and seeing him perform proved to me that he deserved about 12 more Grammy’s because he put on such an amazing show. It was really refreshing seeing a show where there was no syncing involved and he had real talent. I will forever remember that concert because that was my favorite day of spring break and will probably be one of the best concerts I will ever see.

The next stop our on spring break trip was Paris. We went with our school, London College of Fashion, and it couldn’t have been a better experience — minus one thing. On the way from London to Paris, we took a train. And on that train my phone was stolen. Long story short, I was phoneless for the rest of spring break, which wasn’t a great start to my Paris trip, but it happened and I wasn’t going to let that ruin the rest of my trip. Our teachers took us to different places every day, not the typical “touristy” stuff that we probably would have done if we came to Paris ourselves. We were invited into showcases where I met dozens of up and coming designers and saw their lines for this season and learned how they made their collections. I even got most of the designers’ business cards! We went to so many different museums while we were there as well. I was able to see the famous Monet’s water lilies and they were nothing short of exceptional. I have to say that was one of the highlights of Paris. I also was able to see some of Picasso’s paintings, which was amazing as well because his work is so unique and being able to see it up close in person was truly a blessing. Later we saw the Eiffel Tower and, of course, it was amazing.

Our next trip on our spring break adventure was to Greece. Greece is the No. 1 place in the world that I wanted to visit and being able to go to Greece for five days was the chance of a lifetime. Our first day in Greece was spent in Thessaloniki. We only stayed there for a couple hours and really only got to eat dinner, which turned out to be a bit of a disaster. Let’s just say that part of Greece doesn’t know English very well and my two friends and I ended up getting all the wrong orders. It was kind of frustrating but at the same time kind of funny — at one point I was served octopus and was eating it thinking “this doesn’t taste like the crab salad I ordered.” It wasn’t until I was about three tentacles down that the waiter realize he gave me the wrong appetizer. It makes for a good story now, but at the time I was definitely not in the mood for octopus. The next day we flew to Athens where we had a three hour layover until our flight left for the beautiful island of Santorini. Santorini was everything I had hoped for and more. It was so beautiful; it looked just liked the pictures that you see on the Internet. It was so cool just walking through town, seeing donkeys just walking around so casually. We went to Oia for the sunset, which has the best sunset in the world and, my God, it was beyond beautiful. We met a kind man who let us sit on his porch to have the best view of the sunset while overlooking the water. It was the most peaceful moment in my life. It was a time in my life where I really reflected on the positivity in my life and how moments like these are so special and should be cherished. There were so many great memories that I made in Greece because it was such a welcoming and loving country where every person I encountered on my trip was extremely kind. My favorite part of my time in Greece was the villa where we stayed. It was called Villa Manos and it was run by this amazing couple who couldn’t have been nicer. They were like my adopted parents for the week. They always made sure we were OK, checked up on us, and if the taxis were all busy they would drive us themselves. They even gave presents when we checked out and drove us to and from the airport for free. Kindest people I have ever met. Greece was a magical country and I hope to return when I can actually go swimming in the ocean.

The next week I started up with classes again, which wasn’t my favorite, but then I left Thursday with my best friend Taylor for a new adventure in a new country. This week it was Edinburg, Scotland. Scotland has been my favorite trip so far. I think it’s because of all the green I saw that weekend and the culture of the country. First off, if you’re looking for a country where you’re going to get a workout, then go to Scotland. Everything is on a hill — so either you’re walking uphill/downhill all day or you’re taking the stairs. In the end, your legs are beyond tired and your glutes are burning. But positives of Scotland: we were able to see the most beautiful hills and there was so much green it was breathtaking. I love to see lots of greenery and, living in London, I don’t get to see that very often, so it was really nice to be able to see that for the weekend. We made a day trip up to Stirling, Scotland, which was so great! We visited the castle and old cemeteries from the early 17th century. It was fascinating. Later that night we went to a comedy club where we proceeded to be the butt of every comedians’ joke when they found out that we were America. All in all, the cultural feel that I got from Scotland was so beautiful and that’s why I loved it the most. I loved waking up early and going outside and hearing bagpipes being played down the street. I loved that everyone said hello when I walked by and I loved that it was so welcoming. I loved Scotland and I’m so glad I had a chance to make a weekend trip there.

The last country I visited this month was Copenhagen, Denmark. My friend Taylor and I planned this trip a week in advance. It was so last minute, but that’s how study abroad should be, right? When you see an opportunity to travel you should always take it if you can. And that’s exactly how this trip was — it was so spur of the moment, nothing really planned every day, just kind of go with the flow. That’s why this trip was so much fun because we knew what we wanted to see but always took the long way to get there, which made us find the most interesting places on the way. Copenhagen has the longest pedestrian street in Europe and it’s filled with stores, which was so cool to walk through and explore. We also found this amazing fashion and design museum while exploring. Later we found an amazing chapel in the middle of nowhere where the ceiling was one of the highest I’ve ever seen and the inside of the church was one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever experienced. We also got to see the Little Mermaid statue that is the most famous thing that Copenhagen is known for, it was really interesting to me because I loved “The Little Mermaid” movie growing up. Denmark was really different in a way compared to a lot of the other countries I’ve visited and I don’’t know how to explain it. It had a big city feel but a calmness to it that helped balance it all out. I can say without a doubt Denmark has the most attractive people I have ever seen in my life (hint to all the single ladies out there).

All in all, I’ve had a long month full of adventures; adventures I know most people aren’t as lucky to have in their lifetime and I still can’t believe how blessed I am to be able to have this experience. I’ve grown so much as a person in so many ways. I was hoping that study abroad would change me, not that I think I needed to change or anything, just help me improve myself as a daughter, sister, friend to the people in my life. I wanted it to help me find myself, a more grown up version of myself. One who’s independent and strong and a person people can look up to (hopefully) and I really feel that study abroad has done that to me thus far and I hope it continues because, as cheesy as it is, I love experiencing new things about myself and being able to find the beauty in little things that I wouldn’t have realized before.

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