I went to Brussels expecting a lot, and it didn’t disappoint. I met friends that I’ll cherish for a lifetime and that I’ll be hanging out with at UA, and even though I had a great time, “all good things must come to an end.” As I boarded the plane leaving Brussels, the only thing running through my head was the experiences I had, the things I was able to see, the fun I had. How it lasted nearly 4 weeks, but went by in what seemed like an instant. I felt a little sad that I was leaving Europe, but more sad because I was leaving such good friends. Friends that I came to know a whole lot about during my 4 weeks. It was kind of sad having to tell them goodbye, but I got some relief because I’ll see them soon in Tuscaloosa. I really miss my friends, but I know I get to spend a lot of time with them over the next few years. Although I don’t necessarily miss Brussels that much, I do really miss London, Berlin, and Paris. They were the most beautiful cities I have ever seen and the most beautiful cities I may ever have the chance of going to.
My Study abroad experience has changed me a little. By that I mean it made me realize how lucky I really am to be an American. Don’t get me wrong, the countries that I went to were democratic like the US, and had some of the same amenities the US has, but they didn’t have everything I’m accustomed too. The food, the stores, just the atmosphere itself seemed similar, yet different than the US. It changed me just by making me realize how lucky I am. Studying abroad has made me view Europe and Europeans in general differently. I viewed most of Europe as a bit bitter towards Americans from what you read online, and from in movies, but after spending 4 weeks there, they all seem to genuinely love Americans, especially in London and Paris. So I’ve started viewing Europeans as a lot more caring then I first imagined. My family and friends have noticed that I’ve lost a little weight from the trip. I’ve never been overweight, but I’ve just been average, and after walking over 150 miles over the past 4 weeks, they’ve noticed a weight loss, which was kind of surprising. I don’t know that it has changed my personal outlook, but I guess it makes me feel better knowing I can walk for a very long time, and knowing I can do without Chick-Fil-A or Zaxby’s for 4 weeks.
The first thing I noticed stepping foot off the plane on to US soil where the signs in English, which I automatically fell in love with. I noticed the smell of America. Just the air seemed different than what I was use to in Brussels. They had air conditioning so it felt so cold, which was amazing. The portion sizes were much larger than they were in Europe, which was amazing because I got to eat so much for such a low price back home. Walking around a store and hearing people talk to one another and actually being able to understand what they say was absolutely amazing and something I took for granted, and it took me some time to readjust to that here. Seeing the outgoing, smiling Americans and the Southern Hospitality here again was amazing as well. Being able to say Yes Ma’am and No Sir without being looked at weird was a blessing. It was amazing coming back and adjusting back to what I had been so use to just a month ago. It makes me not want to take it for granted anymore.
One thing of advice I can give to future students is to come here ready and willing to try new things and get ready for a little bit of adjustment. Be very open and willing to make new friends with the people in your group and the locals. Especially if you go to a big tourist town, be ready to talk to a LOT of Americans. On top of the Arc D’ Triumph, I was told I had the most amazing accent ever by an American that hadn’t heard one in 2 months. It was great to get to know her. I met people from the Netherlands that love the US, and don’t really like the Netherlands. Paris people that love my Southern Accent and Londoners that love how confused we always look. Just be open. I wish I would have known to be more open from day one. I opened up in London, but I wish I would have been more open from the “get-go.” For packing, please please bring enough clothes to where you wash once a week. Clothes, 2-3 pairs of COMFORTABLE walking shoes, toiletries, grocery bags, and a converter. Thats all you need. You will only be inside to sleep, so you need thins to help you outside. For travel, bring good headphones, because they will get your through everything, and please, just buy a SIM card in your destination. 30 Euros will get you unlimited texting and calling, a TV service, and 3GB of Data. You’ll need it and its so much cheaper than using the American cell service plan. For anyone going to Study abroad, pack lightly, be open, and please make sure to make this one of the best moments of your life, because if you are open to it, you’ll never have this much fun again.