Life-Changing Experience

IMG_2123This study abroad program has changed my life forever. I have traveled before but never to this extent and not with this much learning. I come from a German background so I have always had the perspective in my head that travel changes you. It wasn’t until this trip, however, that I learned about all of the different perspectives that are possible in the world.

Like most students from the American school system, I was not aware of other cultures’ histories unless they affected us. As a country we are only a little over 200 years old but during my travels I saw structures that have literally been here for thousands of years. Before this trip my sight was very narrow but now I can see so much more. There is a huge world out there and I can see that now. IMG_2442I have learned more about France in three weeks then I have in my entire life. I know that World War II was far more complicated than what our schools teach. There are many sides to that war and many different people involved in it. It was not a black and white war or a good versus evil war, like many believe. It was far more complicated than that as I have learned from the French’s perspective. There were those who did terrible things but there were far more people just trying to survive.

I traveled to over six countries in 30 days and have learned a vast amount about the world. The 30 days went by so fast and as soon as I got back it felt like a dream. I wish that dream had never ended.

Europe in 30 Days

IMG_0415In the past 30 days I have been to four different countries, traveled over thousands of miles, and I can’t get enough of it. I’m excited for every new city and country I see but at the same time I’m sad to say good bye to the one I’ve leaving. I have seen more in this past month then I have probably seen in my lifetime. I visited my family in Horbach, Germany, where my roots can be traced back to the 1600s. After the short reunion, my fiancée and I traveled to Munich where I could eat all of my favorite foods. We took an enlightening tour of Dachau that helped me appreciate life. The day after, we went to Neuschwanstein, the fairy tale castle, and it looks like it jumped off the pages of a fairy tale. From Germany we traveled to France to meet up with the rest of our class.

I won’t bore you with everything I have seen in France because I could fill pages but I will run through a few of my favorites. Honestly, for me, there is nothing better than walking along the river at night in Paris. You can see Notre Dame, the Louvre (the outside at least), Napoleon’s Obelisk, and the Eiffel Tower. There are few tourists out at this time so you can see everything and it looks so much more beautiful at night, especially the Eiffel Tower. Even though I spent weeks in France I never got to see the one thing I really wanted to see, les Catacombes. This trip helped show me that it is impossible to see everything you want. When we weren’t in class my fiancée and I left the country, which sounds so cool now that I’m typing it.

IMG_1593On the weekends, we went to London, England and Dublin, Ireland. We only had two days in each place so we had to cram a lot of sightseeing into a short amount of time. In London, we saw the typical spots such as Big Ben (which is actually the name for the bell, not the tower), Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London, and many others. I think the most interesting thing we did on that trip was a tour that took us through Whitechapel to see where Jack the Ripper had been. In Dublin, we saw Trinity College, Dublin Castle, Guinness storehouse, and an 18th-century prison. This upcoming weekend, for our last excursion, we travel to Scotland for the weekend, then take a train from Edinburgh to London, where we will fly back home.

IMG_1163This month has been one of the greatest in my lifetime. It feels as though I have seen so much but I want more. I can never get enough of traveling and I never feel like I have seen enough, it’s my addiction. This study abroad program has allowed me to discover the world and myself and I would recommend it to everyone. I’m already planning my next trip and so should you.

The Eiffel Tower

IMG_1484The one thing everyone pictures when they think about Paris is the Eiffel Tower. As soon as I arrived in Paris I started looking to the skies to find it; little did I know, Paris is a vast city and you can’t see it from every part. For the first week in Paris I only saw it from afar and many of us on the trip joked that we were never going to see it. Finally, on my second week we took a boat trip that took us right next to it… It truly is breathtaking. IMG_1479The view of the tower at night cannot be explained in words, so please take a look at the pictures. The next day we finally went to it. It is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, tourist spots in Paris. You can go to the very top and I would recommend doing it once in your life because the view from the top is amazing. It will take anywhere from half an hour to an hour to get to the top because of the lines, but it is worth it. You can see everything from the top, from the Arc de Triomphe to Notre Dame. Not only is the Eiffel Tower beautiful it has an amazing history.

IMG_1311It was built in 1889 for the World’s Fair in Paris by Gustave Eiffel. It measures over 1,000 feet and it held the record for tallest manmade structure for over 40 years. It was not meant to be a permanent exhibit, since Gustave only had a 20 year permit. During World War I, it proved to be such a valuable resource for antennas so they left it up. It’s a good thing that France left it up since it is the most visited paid monument in the world. There are three levels to the Eiffel Tower and all are reachable by the public. The bottom level, ground floor, is where you can reach the other levels. You can reach the second level by stairs but it really is quite high so prepare yourself. On the second story they have some good gift shops and a good café, so if you need some souvenirs they have them. From the second level, you can reach the top. You feel like you are on top of the world when you are at the top, especially since it is one of the tallest structures in Paris. The Eiffel Tower is the definition of Paris and for good reason. I hope it will be there for generations so my kids can see the beauty I did when I was younger.