Written by Swati
April 21st, 2023
Written by Swati
April 21st, 2023
Written by Swati
April 4th 2023
3 months, 9 countries, a lifetime of memories. Enough titles from bookstores to last me the next few years. Can we believe how quickly the semester has gone by? I’m trying to grasp on to the ends of every moment, but find them slipping through my fingers. This semester feels like sand on the weekends, shattered glass during the weeks. It’s difficult to recuperate from travel and the unwelcoming arms of classes on Mondays wrap around us like steel arms. The seconds pass like ice melts in the winter, my fingers creak over laptop keys.
This month was growing pains. This month was hitting the wall, running my fingers over concrete, slipping over lakeside rocks, pulling myself out of knee-deep water with a laugh. Sometimes the world laughs at you, sometimes you laugh at yourself alongside it. I’ve learned it’s best not to take yourself too seriously in moments of distress. Somehow we find a way. Somehow we will find a way. This month was train rides, observing strangers from toe to head, blinking away stray tears. This month was girls’ night in tiny kitchenettes, tender chicken cutlets over sauteed broccoli, giggling to the Mamma Mia soundtrack. This month was tears of affection, tears of exhaustion, tears of confusion, tears of uncontrollable joy. This month was fighting with the world, finding out that it won’t always fight back. This month was throwing my arms around strangers turned to sisters, chasing after stars at dusk.
In Portugal I learned to admire. Literary landmarks, detailed porcelain tiles, the sun’s gentle caress. Life is sweet where the weather is nice. Or where people make the weather feel nice. And maybe that’s the secret to it all. In Belgium, I learned of the sweetness of simplicity. Chocolate shops, bookstores, and walks along canals. In Ireland I learned to love big. Throw my arms around the world and feel what it’s like to have it wrap me in its warmth and chaos. I learned to ask small questions, await big answers. I learned to do the things I thought I would hate just to give it a chance, sometimes hectic pays off. And in Switzerland I learned to never control my awe of things big and small. The relief of reunion, a newly bloomed spring tree, a groomed dog’s soft coat, a father gently guiding his toddler by the Swiss riverside, a necklace for my best friend. Ducks swimming forward, looking you right in the eye, telling you a secret. This month I learned to skip through empty streets and spin around my room at midnight. Falling is another way to learn how to fly. I learned how to lean on the people around me and found comfort in the similarity of our experiences. I took off the rose colored glasses and realized the petals were beneath my feet the whole time. Everything comes back, but youth never does, not in quite the same form at least. If I could do anything, I’d stop time. I’d freeze it now, as I write this and look back on memorabilia that already means the world to me. I’d freeze it every second of this semester. I’d make these past few months everlasting. But the fact that they are fleeting makes them all the more precious.
Written by Swati
March 24th 2023
Much of our twenties culminate to a strong sense of self, or a person we come to recognize as we grow older. Some people are known as “too much,” having opinions on every little thing, whereas others are so easygoing and blend in so well they barely exist at all. The overarching light behind studying abroad is the ability to pick up stories and experiences from different corners of Europe. From chatting in pre-med to seat partners in chocolate making classes in Belgium to fumbling through a French conversation with women from Montreal along the Portuguese riviera, pretty soon we’ll all be friends of friends that cover the globe.
In Florence I found a quote by Doris Lessing that has stayed with me over the past few weeks, “Pensa in modo sbagliato, se vuoi, ma pensa con la tua testa.” Think wrong if you will, but think for yourself.
Doris Lessing was also a citizen of the world. Born to British-Zimbabwean parents in Tehran, Iran, she lived in Southern Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe) before moving to London, where she spent the rest of her life writing. It’s ironic that I found a British writer’s quote to be the most moving amongst a wall of quotes from international authors in an Italian bookstore, but the phrase is something I hope to keep by my side for a long time. When you make mistakes, they are yours. When you triumph, those victories are yours. Autonomy and developing a strong sense of self with opinions and desires is the most freeing part of becoming an adult. You are free to explore, free to examine, free to think, and free to observe as you please. Take advantage of that, especially in a place like Europe, where you are peering in through the looking glass. Soon enough, French and the French lifestyle will fit like a comfortable second skin and you will go in search of more adventure.
Break off from your group for a few hours and do the things no one will join you for: museums that only you find interesting about cars or bratwurst, a hike through the hills, feeding birds in a park, reading religious text in a new language. Some things are just yours and you’ll grow more as a person by fostering that love instead of trading it in for that which others find more acceptable or traditionally fun.
I recently read “Everything I Know about Love” by Dolly Aderton, a British journalist, whose quippy memoir warns about the lack of a sense of self. She writes about decades of her party lifestyle that culminate in years of therapy where she grapples with figuring out who she really is. Which anticipates the thought: why do we waste so much time waiting to figure out what it is we like and who we are? I can say with full confidence that I came to Metz to break out of the monotony of my life on the main campus, but also to be away from peering eyes. I didn’t want the noise of competition, drawl about internship compensation, and irritation of far too many assignments to reasonably complete to distract from the fact that I will never be in a position to drop everything and adventure ever again.
Think deeply about who you are, and who you want to be. Run amuck, strike up a conversation with a stranger (during daylight hours and in the vicinity of others-please!), throw flower petals and skip rocks, wave at dogs on the street, and fall so incredibly in love with your life that it physically tears at your heart to have to change it.
What a wild and wonderful thing it is to be you in a world with millions of possibilities and millions of universes in which if one thing changed, your whole life would look different. In the most cheesy, 2012 Tumblr way possible, be yourself because everyone else is taken. Thanks, Oscar Wilde!
Written by Swati
March 6th 2023
They say it takes 21 days to build a habit. How sweet it is to know that your body works with your mind to make sure you thrive anywhere you go. In just three weeks you could be good as new. From weighing my own produce and getting stickers to scan at grocery stores to walking up cobblestone streets and deciding that 30-minute walks to the corners of new cities are good for the soul, every place I’ve been to has been so kind to me. I’m constantly surprised at the patience, gentleness, and warmth I’ve received from strangers and the reminder that every problem has a solution.
As always, here are 5 more things I’ve learned over the last month:
They say it takes 21 days to build a habit, and it’s been a little over 55, I slowly realize I could get used to this life. A desire to live, a desire to survive, a desire to thrive. I realize I’ve talked your ear off about Italy, what can I say it was 10 out of 28 days of the month and few more of preparation. But the sweetness of life is an addicting flavor. Lazy wandering streets and squeezing through back alleyways make the world feel like a treasure box. I’m glad to never know what I’ll find.
Written by Swati
March 2nd 2023
The people we meet on the train are Fate’s hands knitting the cloth of our lives right before our eyes. On the way to Venice, a massage therapist from Thailand settled in Albania, hoping to move to Switzerland to join the rest of his family. A couple on vacation from
Gyeonggi-do, South Korea, on a romantic getaway from the cityscape. Fathers wrangle rows of children together, mothers patiently gather tickets and baggage for disembarkment. The people I meet on the train will be scored on my heart forever.
On the way to Florence, I could feel Fate’s hand pushing me forward into my life. After a gentle morning in Burano, a fishing village off of Venice with rows of colorful houses and small pieces of handmade lace, I took some extra time to write by the water. I decide that Venice must be God’s favorite place on Earth. Manmade creations meant to mimic greatness I’d assume he respects the attempt, and allows it to prosper. It wasn’t a place where I necessarily found happiness, but where I found that happiness could be found. And with that I took a ferry back to Venice, with more than enough time to make it to my train. Or so I thought.
How quickly an hour disappears. Delays in turn to new ferry lines, turn into frantic scrambling down Venetian streets, canvas bag in hand, hair whipping through the wind. By the time I made it back to my hotel to pick up my bag, I had 25 minutes to make the 22 minute journey to the Venezia Santa Lucia train station. I had all but given up, but something about traveling abroad alone has instilled more fight in me. If I am to miss a train, I must first attempt to make it. A big problem I had growing up was giving up too early. As it goes with young children who are identified as talented early on, I always wanted to be a natural. I wanted to be good at everything. I wanted assurance that all attempts are rewarded. But the world doesn’t work that way. And it’s alright. Sometimes Fate reaches out a hand. And that’s all we need.
After clattering my way to the train station, a glass bottle toppled out of one of my bags splattering all over the stoned road. I couldn’t tell you why, but once I decided I’d be spending more than 2 days at Lake Como, I fell into the domesticity of it all, and ran to the nearby Lidl to purchase supplies for a lakeside picnic. The unfortunate thing about going grocery shopping with me is that I’ll always shop as my Indian mother taught me to, looking for deals and purchasing a mix of fruits and snacks. But this meant that I ended up with 2 full bags of groceries that I then needed to take to Venice, and later Florence, with me. I’d managed to pack a backpack crammed full of clothes for 10 days in Italy, but the rest were plastic bags from grocery stores knotted haphazardly around my fingers. I ran to the terminal a mere 3 minutes prior to departure, only to find that my seat was in the last car of the train. In the midst of the chaos, I make the split decision to settle into the second car, and cross my fingers that no one else has reserved the seat that I just claimed. Across from me, I snuggle my backpack, two bags of groceries, and my tote bag. Sigh of relief. I’ve done it. I’m on the train and I will be in Florence in 2 hours. Enter Fate.
Stopping at a nearby station, Padova if I recall correctly, a dozen new passengers enter the train. A woman walks over to the couple next to me, explaining that she had reserved one of their seats, starting a bit of a stir that had me wondering if it was my mistake that would finally be revealed. But Fate would have it otherwise. A man enters as well, gesturing that he has reserved the seat that held my belongings. Eyes widening, I apologize profusely, knocking over my water bottle full of San Benedetto Allegro, a sparkling citrus fruit juice. Lovely. While I’m gathering my bearings, the couple and a nearby train hostess discuss, asking the woman with the original seat reservation if she would be okay taking a different seat nearby, as the train car was close to empty. With an agreement from all four of us in the vicinity, she heads over to a different seat and the man sits across from me, apologizing as well. I detect an English accent and a lack of the normal European distaste towards my clumsy nature. I take the plunge, asking if he was English which led to the most engaging conversation I’ve had in months.
I find that he’s John Armstrong, a Glasgow native and Oxford-educated philosopher, professor, author, and art collector. It’s difficult to read strangers, and with all the stranger danger training I received beginning at age 5, I’ve favored safety in traveling alone. But life in Italy, and maybe in overarching Europe, has an emphasis on most strangers minding their own business, often not starting conversation unless approached first. It gives me a greater feeling of control and ability to walk myself out of unsavory situations or break if conversation tapers off. In fact, the way a conversation begins is quite interesting. It feels too technical to ever engineer perfectly, which is why I’ll always believe Fate led me to that train, that train car, that seat, and that conversation.
John Armstrong has enough stories to last lifetimes, but I find that much of the work that he’s done and continues to do in literature are along the lines of the realizations I’ve had along my European adventure thus far: small joys and finding beauty in the little things, more specifically why we are pulled to beautiful things like the stroke of a brush in a painting, or a curve of a hand in a sculpture. I’m amazed to have found a writer, but also such a mind, passing through at the same time as I did. I’ve never quite been able to look Fate in the eye the way I did that Thursday afternoon.
If by chance you’re reading this now, Mr. John Armstrong, I hope you find that opening line you’re looking for to start your newest book.
The people we meet on the train won’t fix us. But they will teach us, lead us, and guide us into understanding that we are fixing ourselves.
Written by Swati
February 24th, 2023
The World is Your Oyster- And Your Pearl
Gentle waves crept along the shore, a mid-morning lullaby, I watched as a border collie eagerly threw herself into the lake in search of a tennis ball. There was a quiet chill in the air, but in the midst of dogs on walks and families on morning strolls I couldn’t help but be selfishly blissful to get this moment of utter peace along the shores of one of the most beautiful sights in Italy all to myself. It felt like my whole life was on pause, la dolce far niente. The sweetness of doing absolutely nothing. As the sun took her slow, hazy rise, I admired youth. What a beautiful thing. A little boy waddles to the shore and skips his first rocks while his parents watch in admiration of their little creation. Plum cake in hand, I realize that this must be life. All I need is what’s in front of me. The sweetness of sitting on a shore, dipping my toes in and letting inspiration take her rightful place rooted back in my heart. I’ve always been so fortunate to be surrounded by people who believed in me and shepherded me to roles and positions of greatness. With acceleration in school, leadership, and hobbies, I grew up with an innate need to make something of myself. And I found no shortage of opportunities or support, something I’m endlessly thankful for. But it also led to severe feelings of inadequacy and an inability to stop and appreciate anything for long enough to realize how much was put into it. It felt like life started and never paused from the age of eleven to twenty-one. I was constantly in preparation for something or in the process of something else. As the fog receded over the lake and the warmth of the sun settled into my bones, I think I finally understood simple pleasures, small joy. The waves are a smattering of stardust, diamonds atop water, hypnotizing to say the least. I knew I could spend hours there, and to no surprise, I was there from ten in the morning to five in the evening.
Gazing at the water, I reached another big conclusion: the world is your oyster- and she is your pearl. You are free to take anything she offers you, experiences, lessons, and life. And she will be everything beautiful in return: joy, sadness, excitement, and youth.
As the sun set over the alps, I felt a prick of tears in my eyes. How lucky am I to be alive in such a beautiful place in this crucial moment in my life? How perfectly have the pieces fallen into place so that I can see such beauty across the world at such a young age? Running to catch the bus after a pasta lunch with a gelato in hand in Bellagio with new friends studying abroad in Paris and London all the way from Harvard. If there’s anything I’m most thankful for, it’s the kindness of strangers and the shared experience of other young adults traveling Europe, as students or otherwise, and my newfound ability to strike up conversation and find new friends anywhere. This is the sweetness of youth, the excitement of freedom.
The same water that softens the potato, hardens the egg, the same lake that rounds the pebble, sharpens the rock. How fascinating it is that we are all living the same lives in such different ways, each on our own paths. Another little Italian boy skips rocks and I watch his small joy rocket as he runs up and down the shoreline, tossing in more pebbles and watching the ripples disappear. In the midst of his seashell collecting expedition, he sees me watching and runs up with a handful of seashells, depositing them carefully into my palm.
Existence is just a shout in the void, a ripple in the lake, footsteps along a shoreline, a stroke in a painting. How beautiful it is to know that you must not always shake the world whole.
Written by Swati
February 23rd, 20223
Life in Italy is slow, every moment is sweet. La dolce vita, the aforementioned dolce far niente. The trains and buses are often a few minutes late (oop) but once you get used to it, there’s a mindset that sets in. Nothing matters as much as we think it does. Not in a fatalistic way, just nothing is all that permanent or life altering. Small cracks break open gorgeous geodes.
After 3 days of walking along lakeshores and skipping rocks, watching the ripples fade away, I hopped on the train to Venice. Something that comes up often during my adventures in Italy is the importance of family. Family vacations, family owned shops, family recipes, I decide if I ever have children I’d absolutely have to take them to Italy at least once. There is a safety and comfort in the haze of sunny afternoons and plazas with just a few shops. Sunny days, pasta with an ocean view, molten gelato running down my fingers as I run to the bus stop, youth frozen in a frame.
In the words of Zack and Cody, this must be the sweet life. Lazy days spent by the water, ferries gently rippling through robins egg blue water in Venice, children giggling in the background. Life is a cone of gelato, sweetness dribbling off the ends. Never have I felt so lucky to be alive as I do amongst the movie set that is northern Italy. Motor boats rip through the water in Burano, a fishing village off of Venice, glass beads clink in Murano, another village nearby Venice known for molten glass. Seagulls soar through the air. I’ve learned to love mornings in Italy, young couples dot sidewalks, sat in outdoor cafes, cappuccinos on hand. Older couples stroll along the walking path, greet me with a gentle “buon giorno” when I break out of my daze, a wistful look in my eyes. I decide Venice must be one of God’s favorite places on Earth. It has wedged a place in my heart. Foggy mornings spent walking along the water feel straight out of a dream sequence. As I walk down streets filled with rainbow houses I’m hit with the same two thoughts, “people get to live like this?” and “how lucky am I to be alive right now, in this moment?” It’s been a long running joke that I’d sit and stare at water for hours if I could as a kid, and as an adult there have been several days over the past week that I’ve done just that. All this time I thought Europe was magic, a potion that cured me of my daily illness. Every day felt like the same one on loop for my first two years at Tech. I couldn’t shake the feeling that there had to be more out there. And I couldn’t have been more right. There is so much more, but there is also the same pieces of life that can be found in our own backyards. I’ve set my sights on the dolce vita. While I’d love to spend a year or two working in Europe post graduation, I want to implement some European normalities into my daily life. Eating mindfully, being present in every moment, walking more, living a bit slower. There are always a few dead giveaways of foreigners in Europe. They walk a little too fast for their own good, smile at strangers, eat while they walk, and talk loudly just to name a few. Not that any of these are bad things, they’re just in such stark contrast to the European backdrop. Live and let live is an important observation I’ve noticed lately. Shop owners are a bit friendlier in more touristy areas, probably in response to the customer service lifestyle of tourists, but many shop owners barely look up when guests enter and continue on their way. There’s something so comforting about being given the space to exist at your own rhythm. Others unpack shipments, pull carts along the sidewalk, and debone fish for morning markets. Existence is so sweet, how foolish of me to think otherwise for so long.
Written by Swati
February 20th, 2023
As the sun made her wispy escape, I had another great realization on the bus outside of the Milan airport: here you are, taking the world by storm. Not just a tiny lightning strike, but a torrential downpour. Here you are melting icy exteriors, one interaction at a time. Lately I have relied strongly on the direction of kind strangers. If you dropped me off in any city and asked me to get somewhere, I will one hundred percent of the time end up heading off in the opposite direction. I give myself ample time to mess up, but still always end up needing a helping hand, which the world has always kindly offered. After a panini lunch and wandering the streets of Luxembourg prior to my flight to Italy, I met Tanya, a South Sudanese college student in a pink and purple paisley print skirt, who led a frantic me to the bus stop that would take me to the Luxembourg airport. She double checked the destination, kindly requesting the driver to give me a heads up when we arrived. I couldn’t thank her enough after she walked me all the way to the bus stop and waited for the right one to get there.
In Scotland, I stood at a crossroads, holding up a map printed off for me by the concierge from the wrong location of the hotel chain I booked a stay in. With two locations so close together I wandered my way into the wrong address, but with a map in hand I still couldn’t seem to figure it out. A woman approached me jovially on the street, asking if she could give me directions anywhere. After a few minutes of explanation I had a clear idea of where I needed to be and what I would pass on my way to Queen Street, but I was still taken aback by her warmth and willingness to help to the point of approaching me. She and her husband sent me off with a “Cheers, best of luck!” And as I made my way to check in, I realized that I have such immense gratitude for kind strangers, they make the world turn.
I am constantly reminded that if you reach out a hand, the world will once again feel like something you can hold in the palms of your hands. We love because we have been loved before, passing forward the chain formed lifetimes ago.
Written by Swati
February 17th, 2023
When in doubt: hop in a moving vehicle. Wait, maybe not literally. I am a big proponent of changes of scenery, and there’s something particularly comforting about seeing some new faces and watching trees pass from a moving window. Something about galavanting through the world on public transport makes you feel limitless, just unstoppable.
Many of you know this by now, but public transport in Europe is far and wide. As current GTE students gear up to start our spring breaks, let’s talk a little more about the modes of public transport you’ll be frequenting as a student and how to navigate them! As with anything, understanding train lines, bus routes, and flight terminals take time, but doing a little bit of reading ahead of time will definitely ease some of the anxiety.
Shuttle: On Monday evenings, GTE has a personal shuttle waiting at the bus stop in front of Cora for students to catch back to campus after their weekly grocery shop! While I don’t frequent Cora any longer (see: C’est pas drôle from a few weeks ago) and favor the much smaller and more palatable Auchan, the benefits of having shuttle waiting to take you back to campus with a week’s worth of groceries instead of making the 20 minute trek back can really make a difference for your shoulders after a long day of class.
Buses: The GTE campus and primary dorms are situated nearby many of the city’s bus stops running routes to places in downtown Metz like the train station, the Centre Pompidou, Metz Cathedral, and other neighborhoods along the way. Most bus routes can be found on transportation apps Moovit and Omio, but I’ve found Google Maps to be linked to the routes and times perfectly. When you get on the bus, you’ll tap your bus card, a blue pass with options for 1-way, round-trip, 10-way, and monthly passes purchased through Le Met. You can grab a 1-way or round trip pass directly from the bus driver when you enter the bus, or purchase a 1-way, round trip, or 10 way pass at any bus stop downtown! You can also purchase unlimited monthly passes at Le Met’s store downtown, but seeing as how I haven’t quite figured that one out yet, I’ve found the 10-way passes to work best for me. Make sure you remember to tap your card as public service workers frequent buses with a scanner to check that passengers all have valid bus passes that they used to get on the bus. If you haven’t tapped a pass, you’re subject to a hefty fine!
Trains: My personal favorite! Trains run far and wide and Metz is the perfect location to easily get to different countries and cities, especially with a Eurail pass! It takes less than an hour to get to Luxembourg, my first stop to catch a flight on my spring break adventure, and under 5 hours to get to cities in Belgium, Amsterdam, Switzerland, and Germany! With Paris just an hour away, you’re free to hop on and catch the Eiffel Tower sparkling after class (just make sure to get a reservation beforehand!)
Be aware that while Eurail passes essentially function as train tickets across Europe, there are high-volume cities and countries you’ll need to reserve seats for! France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal are included in the places that require seat reservations for an extra fee! You won’t be able to board a train to major destinations in these countries without a copy (physical or digital) of your reservation alongside your Eurail pass.
Flights: It’s no secret RyanAir and EasyJet have European college students in the palms of their hands. With strongholds in smaller airports, expect a bit of a trek to and from these cheap flight hubs. RyanAir runs in several airports in France, but the one you’ll probably see as the most relevant is the airport in Beauvais. A tiny little thing with just 2 terminals, I spent the day exploring Beauvais prior to my flight to Scotland and left a little piece of my heart in the city. You won’t need to get to the airport any more than an hour to an hour and a half ahead of your flight because it’s so small and there’s really only one restaurant inside and another little shop with snacks and magazines next to it. Many tend to lean away from this airport as it is two train transfers away from Metz, but I loved the city too much to have anything bad to say about it. It has a similar small French town charm of Metz with a breathtaking cathedral and tourist stops along the way. Many favor the Luxembourg airport for its proximity, but I’d recommend taking just one flight out of Beauvais if there’s a destination you’d like to go to that flights out of Luxembourg don’t reach!
It’s no secret that the accessible, well-managed, and often clean methods of public transportation make Europe a well-oiled machine. With enough patience and willpower, you too can soon be on 15-hour long train journeys to Prague or Rome! Me on the other hand, I prefer to swap off between trains and airplanes based on time and cost efficiency. Happy traveling!
Written by Swati
February 8th, 2023
As I’m writing this, I’m sat on the train back to Metz from Paris, watching the sunrise and thinking back on my first month abroad. A month, over already, gone in the blink of an eye. I never want to leave. I want to go back this instant. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a dozen times. we are truly capable of so much just as we are. Weeks ago I could barely string together the words to introduce myself in French and while I’m most definitely stumbling around, I’ve only ever used English two or three times in particularly stressful situations, favoring the immersive style of language learning. I’ve met people from Scotland, Japan, Canada, and different ends of the United States across my travels so far and it reminds me that the world isn’t quite so big after all. I’ve always heard it told to me that fortune favors the bold, but recently I’ve figured the opposite. Fortune doesn’t favor anyone, the bold favor fortune. I’m pulled to believe that we’re all given a sacred few chances that set the course of the rest of our lives, if only we muster up the courage to take them. The things that have proven most useful to me the past few weeks are research and advice- to know and be aware is far more useful than I would’ve thought prior. So much of life is white noise, focus on the things that strike a chord in you. Soldier on and forge your own way, Better if it’s off the beaten path because that’s what makes it your own. And for future study abroaders and GTE students I’ll give you a few tips for reading through my musings:
1. Bring a card holder and only carry essentials! Your student ID, credit card, phone and bus pass are all you really need on any odd day out in Metz or traveling. If you’re here during the early spring or transition months, add an umbrella! The weather is much more overcast and rainy in Metz than many originally planned for!
2. Bring a reusable bag. Shops often charge for disposable bags or don’t have them at all! Purchasing reusable bags embossed in french grocery store emblems is a bit of a shared GTE experience, but I was thankful my mom sent me off with a big post-christmas reusable bag from Bed Bath and Beyond. I’ll always have a piece of her reminding me not to buy the unnecessary trinkets I always end up rummaging through.
3. Give yourself lots of room to mess up! What I mean by this is to pad your travel time with time to transfer between trains or metro stations, budget time for getting lost or possible delays along the way (at least the first few times, metro and bus stations in new areas can be difficult to figure out! Coming from someone who has taken the wrong line one or two or four– too many times to admit). Public transit in Europe is far and wide and much better than the MARTA could ever dream of being, but it’s not foolproof and there are often strikes and delays. Try not to let a freak accident stop you from catching a connection or flight to a new place!
4. Be cautious with new foods and favor cooked and familiar foods when possible! While some of us have the stomachs for escargot and steak tartare, it’s always tough to tell how you’ll react to unfamiliar ingredients and cooking styles, especially in travel. When in doubt, look around at who’s in a restaurant or street food stall, read reviews, favor fully cooked food, and gauge freshness and cleanliness before taking the leap. As someone with a very weak stomach, I’ve been lucky (knock on wood) to make it this far without a bout of food poisoning, but I’d advise caution! You don’t want a reaction to an unfamiliar food stall to ruin a trip. Along those lines, spend money on what’s important to you! If it’s a bit of a higher end restaurant, shopping in a popular district, or a nicer hotel, make sure you prioritize because this semester can quickly shape up to be not very budget-friendly.
5. Don’t be afraid to venture out on your own! Being a Georgia Tech student is intense to say the least and many follow the motto “work hard, play hard” to a certain extreme. If you’ve read any of my posts so far, you know that I’m a big proponent of solo travel (as long as you’re being safe and have done the proper research on safe places to stay and people to check in with) it’s easily the best way to really immerse yourself in meeting new people, understanding the lifestyle in a new town, and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. In my case, I find it easier to talk to locals and meet new people on my own. I find a greater sense of accomplishment in feats done on my own and I tend to have a stronger desire to do things at my own pace and based on my interests. don’t be afraid to say no to things you know you won’t enjoy, especially if it’s with people you’re not sure you feel totally comfortable with!
At the end of the day, this experience is all about finding your footing and it really is what you make of it. I’m a strong believer that you get what you want out of new adventures if you do your due diligence, and what I came in search of is time and space to navigate my young adulthood as I come into my own. About a dozen marketplaces, bookstores, and museums later, I find I’m really liking who I’m shaping up to be.