Featured Image: My housemate and I derping in front of the Cathedral in Berlin.
Sometimes I wonder to myself, “What is the study abroad experience?” Is it constantly waiting at airports because you book the cheapest flights? Is it only going to one class for a week? Is it buying four pastries instead of one because the lady did not understand your Hungarian? Perhaps it is a combination of all the above, and I am continuing to discover what the experience is.
With all the positive and heartwarming support I received from my friends and family, I have mentally been way healthier and happier with my life abroad. The past couple weeks have been filled with adventures, mostly in a couple different countries since I went to Amsterdam (and I ditched a week of school basically, oops), and then I only had a week of school in between that and my own fall break. I felt incredibly blessed to be able to see new cultures and places so easily, and each place that I visit, it feels like I have way too little time there.
During my fall break, I went to Berlin, Barcelona, and Madrid with a variation of people on each leg of the trip. I met up with a good friend in Berlin along with my housemates and my friend. We were able to go see some historical sites, and for me, it was nice to have my housemates and my Vassar friends together. A collision of two worlds. More people speak English in Germany than those who do in Hungary. However, I found myself missing Budapest a little more than I had expected as we were navigating through more complicated public transit systems of Berlin. Everything was also way more expensive than I was used to! This is coming from a person who usually pays $3 equivalent for her meals in Budapest. Despite those little differences I noted, I had fun trying out new foods, walking around the Botanical gardens in freezing cold weather. Everything was an adventure!
Next, I flew over to Barcelona, and I had not packed clothes for that warm, beachy weather. It really reminded me of home in California filled with sunshine and positive vibes. The city is filled with vibrant mosaic patterns, mostly as a part of Gaudi’s artwork that is spread throughout. I wore tank tops and crop tops for the first time in a couple weeks, and I was praying to get some of my tan back before I headed back home to the cold. Barcelona was by far my favorite place besides Amsterdam, and I only had approximately two days there which was not nearly enough time to fit everything in. Also, funny story about me being a grandma: My friends and I tried to rally to go out later that night by taking a nap at 9 PM, but we just never woke up. I was refreshed AF the next day. I went to Park Guell, Casa Batllo, the beach, and Sagrada Familia, and I felt like I was in European Disneyland.
My last stop was to visit some friends in Madrid which was a refreshing and chill break from all this sightseeing that I had to plan myself. They graciously let me stay in their apartment and cooked for me. More friends from my program joined me, and I was able to introduce them to my friends from Vassar. I was also reunited with some friends who I went to high school with. I went to a concert to see Oddisee and his band, Good Company. I loved jamming out to their energy and watching such talented people do what they love with such passion.
Waves of nostalgia, but this time in a good way, overtook my experience during fall break. I was able to reconnect with people I haven’t seen in a while and get to know people, like my housemates or my program friends, in a setting that wasn’t academic. I was surprised myself, but I found myself missing Budapest. Hopping around from hostel to hostel and sleeping with random people didn’t bother me that much, but I missed having my own space. I also missed being able to navigate through the city without even having to try. The prices in Budapest are also hard to beat, especially for a college student’s bank account.
After travelling for so long, I was more appreciative of the experience I was having in Budapest. Yes, I did enjoy exploring the historical sites and new cultures of each different place I visited, but I just felt like Budapest finally became home to me. I truly feel like I have begun enjoying my time abroad and getting to know new people, but overall I have taken a more positive and grateful perspective towards every little encounter I have. Time is flying wildly fast, and looking back, it feels like I just landed yesterday and was feeling anxious about everything. Looking forward, I want to cherish the remaining month and a half.