I struggle to find words that even come close to adequately expressing how much I gained from studying abroad. People don’t tell you how hard it is to talk about your experiences when you come back from studying overseas. Sure you can show them pictures and tell them about where you went but you’ll never be able to make them feel the same way you did. The awe of seeing structures thousands of years old. The wonder of bustling city streets. The only way I can really describe my trip is life changing. I learned so much and saw so many different perspectives of the world that there’s no way my life couldn’t have changed.
Architecturally, I can’t stress enough how amazing it is to see the variety and spontaneity of European cities. There’s an unmistakable distinction to places where we as mankind have lived, refined, and innovated over thousands of years. Architecture is the common art across all cultures. Observing the infinite subtleties that differ from country to county, city to city, even street to street is so intoxicating. Many a time I found myself drawn across cities, meandering from street to street, following the flows of the architecture, tracing the progression of history and innovation laid in the brick of the walls.
On a more interpersonal level, traveling across Europe fosters independence and really puts the vastness of the world into perspective. The first few times I found myself in a place where I didn’t speak the language were stressful but I quickly grew to embrace the feeling. For me personally it was almost surreal to be able to just listen to the conversations floating about, not quite cacophonous, yet not quite comprehensible either. I tended to stray far away from the “touristy” icons of cities and really focus on the culture and heritage of the city. Many of my fondest memories stem from painfully basic attempts at conversation that only happen when neither party speaks a language the other can understand.
A lot of people act like they are scared of being placed in an unfamiliar setting. I know that the me from a year ago would never have thought of enjoying the very experiences I now look back on and cherish. The biggest lesson I can pass on is simply to appreciate the experiences you constantly live in. Once you accept that you are what you make of your experiences nothing will ever seem menial or bothersome ever again. To me, this was absolutely the most important thing I changed in my life, there’s so much to experience in life that there’s no time to treat moments as if they’re worthless.