Hello everyone! I’m sad to say this will be my final post for SDSU Be International, but it has been an incredible semester and I am thrilled to share my final adventures and reflections with all of you.
It’s unreal to be sitting in my house in Laguna Beach right now. Just six months ago, I was off on an incredible adventure, and after months of travel, classes, and challenges, I have experienced more growth than I could ever hope to capture in words.
However before I get into that, I want to share what I’ve been up to in this past month! After a week of wrapping up classes towards the end of May, I packed up my room and said goodbye to all of my friends. While I was trying to grasp the weight of leaving my home in Sweden and saying goodbye to so many friends from around the world, I was having a hard time since I was staying in Europe for another month. My family flew out to Sweden to meet me and we then traveled out to Arvika, Sweden to visit some relatives. It was incredible to see so much of where I came from. We visited the farm of my great-great grandparents as well as the birthplace of my great grandfather who immigrated to the US.
From there, my family all flew to Lisbon, Portugal to spend a few days in the city and to visit the school my father spent two years teaching at! It was a beautiful city and was so nice to do some catching up with my family.
After Lisbon, my parents flew to Iceland while my sister Haley and I began our two-week backpacking trip around southern Europe. We flew to Barcelona first and spent two days touring the city, laying on the beach, and drinking Sangria! It was a much-needed change from the cold semester I spent in Sweden and made me anxious for my return to California.
We then flew to Rome where we spent a quick day and a half touring the Colosseum, Roman Forum, the Pantheon, as well as the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. My parents had taken us to Rome before, but it was incredible to see the city again and truly get a sense of the once powerful Roman Empire that still characterizes the city to this day.
Though we were exhausted after so much touring, we had a few days to chill out when we traveled to Florence. A few of my friends from SDSU were spending their summer abroad in Italy and we were lucky enough to be able to stay with them. The weather was dreadfully humid, but the city was breathtaking. We saw the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, as well as the statue of David. It was really fun to get a sense of what my friends were experiencing in their time abroad and to see them after being apart for so long.
Though I wish we could’ve stayed longer, we had to continue with our journey and next on our adventure was Venice! I had been there twice before with my parents and was probably most excited to stop there again. My sister and I took a tour of the canals with a free walking tour and heard many interesting facts about the city’s infrastructure as well as the people that have lived there for centuries. Of course, we also stopped by the Rialto and St Marc’s Square to enjoy the scenery while eating at some cafes.
As we made our way to Geneva, my sister and I were beginning to slow down a bit. It was perfect timing though because there was just enough time to see the city and relax. My favorite part of the city was being able to go inside the United Nations building and take a tour of some of the most important rooms used in international negotiations. Though we weren’t able to see the Human Rights and Conflict Resolution rooms due to talks about Yemen as well as an international human rights convention taking place, it was cool to see the United Nations in action. It was inspiring to see so many people come together to work for the greater good. The city reminded me a lot of Stockholm with its crystal clear waters and crisp air. It hit me then just how much I was able to do while I was in Sweden, and how much I still miss it.
From Geneva, we headed to Paris! My sister and I were thrilled to be back in this amazing city. We spent a day touring Versailles, seeing the Catacombs, and we even took a bike tour through the city roads. The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame were just as beautiful as I had remembered, and it was so memorable to spend the time there with my sister! Since we had been to Paris before, we decided it would be really fun to visit Disneyland Paris! Growing up only 30 minutes away from the original one, it was interesting to see the similarities and differences. We both felt like kids again and we loved it!
To finish off our trip, we headed to Amsterdam to visit our older sister, Chenee. The first day, she came to the city to grab an Indonesian dinner and some drinks. It was so great to spend sister time catching up on life since the times we see each other happen so few and far between! The day after, her husband and two adorable daughters came into the city to visit the zoo with us. There were so many different animals at the zoo and it was so wonderful to see my nieces. I cherish every moment I get with them.
But before I knew it, my time traveling with my sister was over and we were on a flight back home. We did so much with our time and yet it still didn’t feel like enough. The entire semester didn’t even feel like enough time. I am so grateful for the amount of time I got to catch up with my sister as well as all of the amazing travels I had while being abroad.
So, to recap what I’ve been up to since I’ve been home… I got back about a month ago and came straight back to two summer classes and two jobs that occupy most of my time. The down time I do get is spent relaxing on the beach and thinking as little as possible. I really jumped right back into my everyday life, and although it can be hectic, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
People keep asking me about my experiences and what I’ve learned while abroad, but if I’m being honest, I still haven’t completely processed everything I went through. When I do finally process everything, I think I’ll keep a lot of it to myself. Somehow, the wondrous adventures from this semester lose their luster when I try to recap them in words. I think a lot of what I experienced is better left unsaid.
I look back fondly on every challenge, embarrassing moment, and success from this semester. I smile thinking about all of the incredible history and culture I was able to take in, all of the friendships I’ve made, and all of the growth I’ve experienced. I can say with confidence that I am not the same person who left California in January. I am more confident, easy-going and patient. My maturity has increased tenfold as well as my ability to connect with anyone and everyone I meet. Because of the challenges I went through, I now feel more prepared to take on my senior year and all of life’s adventures to come after graduation. I cannot recommend highly enough the experience of studying abroad and wish everyone could experience what I have this past semester. There’s no other experience like it.
I want to thank you all for being a part of this amazing journey. I truly hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it as much as I’ve enjoyed living it.
I just want to leave a bit of advice for those of you considering study abroad: Go big, leave home! It was the best decision I ever made.