Post-Exchange Update

A lot has happened since my last blog entry that I don’t really know where to start. Firstly, I finished all my exams and am officially done undergrad!! It feels surreal and the thought of being done school (for a while, anyways) hasn’t fully sunk in yet, although I’m sure it will once I start work in the fall. I also had a one-week gap during my exam period in May, so I went to Lisbon for a few days. Then the day after I finished my last exam on the 30th, I flew to Morocco where I visited Casablanca, Marrakech, and did a desert tour through the Sahara. After that, I flew back to Milan for one night to retrieve and repack my suitcase to send home with my friend before flying off to Prague.

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Right now, I’m sitting in a nice outdoor terrace of a cafe in Old Town Prague, taking this all in. I was a bit nervous about this trip at first, seeing that this is my first time venturing solo; but it has turned out to be really refreshing and exactly what I needed right now. The last few weeks have been so hectic, moving all my stuff out of Milan, studying for exams, venturing through Morocco, re-packing my next three weeks in a travel backpack, that spending some time alone in a fresh city for a few days is one of the most revitalizing things that I could ask for at this moment in time. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my travels with friends and there are certainly places (like the Sahara) where I would highly recommend going in a group than solo. But I’ve realized that over the course of these past five months on exchange, I’ve never really had a moment to pause or to reflect by myself.

Prague has turned out to be one of the loveliest cities I have visited, where it’s quite enjoyable and peaceful to venture out on your own to different sightseeing points, boutiques, and cute coffee shops. It’s different traveling on your own because you can take things completely at your own pace – I spent over an hour browsing through books yesterday to pick out a good read, and over two hours reading in a park this morning.

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I’ve also been spending this time thinking back on all my travels. It’s crazy to admit that I was literally in a different city almost every weekend for the past five months. I feel like I’ve learned so much about traveling, people’s way of living, others, and myself. I’m definitely going to miss this crazy yet wonderful experience of traveling around Europe, although part of me is ready to go back home.

I’m really grateful to have had this opportunity, and I would highly recommend others to go on exchange. There likely won’t be another time in your life where you will be able to spontaneously book a trip to Prague, or London, or Barcelona, without worrying about crucial commitments or having to ask for vacation days.

I think that one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned on exchange is the importance of being kind. It can get hard at times to communicate in certain European cities where people don’t predominantly speak English, but it’s amazing to see how saying something with a smile can influence the way others interpret your speech. It’s staggering to see how saying thank you or leaving a small tip can change someone’s day. It’s also surprising to realize the number of businesses that highly depend on good reviews to make money, and how vulnerable they feel in that position. If there’s one thing in common that I’ve seen among all my travels, it’s the joyful influence that kindness can bring to others, especially strangers.

Happy travels, everyone!

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