It is hard to believe that my travels in Europe are over. It does not seem that long ago that I was packing my bags and trying to figure out what I actually needed to bring. Over the past five weeks I took a UA class in Greece, and then traveled through Italy, Spain, and Ireland.

I’ve seen some amazing sights and took part in some crazy festivals thst I still can’t believe I had the opportunity to take part in. I loved seeing so many places that I have spent my whole life hearing about like the Parthenon, Coliseum,  Vatican and so many more. I also loved taking part in the local cultures of each place like joining in a traditional Zorba dance in the Streets of Athens, cheering and celebrating the Palio race in Sienna, and Running with the Bulls in Pamplona. The times I went out of my comfort zone to try something different ended up being some of my best experiences.

In addition to the places, sights, and festivals, the people I have met along the way truly made this trip special. In Greece, I got to spend time with a bunch of other UA students, most of whom I did not know at all before the trip. By the end of our time in Greece we were best friends and I look forward to seeing them all again in Alabama. For the rest of my trip I traveled with a couple of my good friends and enjoyed the opportunity of getting to know them better and share such amazing experiences. It was also the random strangers I met along the way,  who were mostly young travelers from all over the world. Sometimes I would just listen for someone speaking English in a crowded place and go up to introduce myself and never was I disappointed.  Everyone had a story to tell and a unique perspective on life shaped by their own experiences and where they were from. I loved asking them about their native countries and how their schooling system worked or what kind of job they had and also answering their questions about America. I have such a greater appreciation for the opportunity available in America and pride for what it stands for. Some people I talked to told me how hard it was to get ahead in their counties and almost every student I talked to said it was their dream to study in America.

What I will take back with me as I fly back home is both a greater pride in being an American but also a greater appreciation of other cultures and a desire to keep on experiencing different ways of life. Life was definitely different from what I was used to but unique and beautiful in its own way in each place I visited. This trip has been one of the best experiences of my life and I am thankful I had the opportunity to do it. I will cherish the memories and can’t wait to share my experiences with my friends and family back home.