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Opinion

Lauren Abroad: he end of the journey

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May 4, 2016

A cue that my semester abroad had come to an end was the sizable amount of legroom that I enjoyed on my flight home. After many cheap flights on tiny European flights, I was very excited to fly home with Delta. How could I ever have thought that Delta flights were cramped?

Sitting in my seat, with my legs stretched out and not touching the seat in front of me, I still did not quite believe that I was actually leaving Europe. After a whole semester of living and breathing “Europe” I had fully adjusted and acclimated to many new environments. I had thrived in Europe and then all of a sudden I had to leave.

To be honest, I was a little mad. Mad because this amazing opportunity was coming to an end, and mad at myself for feeling like I did not want to see my family or my home. Was I only one that felt like this?

Over this past semester I learned more than I could have ever learned had I just been sitting in a regular class on campus. When you study abroad you are able to have a total and comprehensive learning experience. I learned how I react in stressful situations, what I am like in a leadership position, and that I may not be as introverted as I once thought. I had the opportunity to enrich my education by absorbing every word of a fantastic teacher and leader whose unique perspective on the world was instrumental in shaping my learning process while exploring Europe. I even learned practical skills for traveling around Europe, namely using public transit systems, new languages, and how to interact properly with locals.

However, the most important aspect of the trip focused not on European culture but on the members of my group. Some may cringe and shy away from the very thought of group travel, and I will be the first to admit that not every moment with a large group is easy.

Throughout my semester abroad experience I learned so much about the nineteen people that were complete strangers to me just three months ago. When you spend every moment with a group of people you are able to peel back everyone’s “layers” in a very fast fashion. I became very accustomed to who snored, talked in their sleep, or who would always share their food. I knew who I could count on to always be on time, or who always knew where they were going. We all got to the point where we knew who was coming down the hallway just by how that person walked. This experience was a phenomenal way to see Europe but an even better way to see people. I feel so privileged to have experienced all ranges of emotions, idiosyncrasies, and the beauty of each person on my trip.

Now, with two group travel experiences under my belt I tell everyone I meet that group travel is worth it, all of the time. I know how difficult it can be sometimes, but both of my trips with groups we started as strangers and left as family. If there is on thing I learned on my most recent trip to Europe is that I will always say yes to Europe and yes to meeting new people through group travel.

Lauren Simenson is a student at UW-River Falls.