While study abroad is an incredible experience in itself, oftentimes we think back to the people and places we meet as our most defining aspects of this time abroad. Thinking back, the friends (both fellow exchange students and locals) that I’ve met in Beijing and London have defined my experience more than I could ever hope to explain.
One of the most incredible moments, however, is when we can share this experience with those who we love. In December 2016, I decided to use all my leftover miles to surprise my sister with a 12 day trip to visit me in London and travel together through Europe. I’m writing this post as I sit in the airport waiting for my 7:30pm flight to London (and quite a bit upset) after sending my sister back on her flight home to Atlanta.
My sister – the most incredible lady in the world – is Ali. She is 25 years old and has consistently been one of my biggest supporters in life. Whether it be learning an untraditional language like Chinese, coming out as gay, or dealing with the challenges of growing up ‘different’ in the South… she has been there for me. Of course we have our differences and we fight, but it never lasts more than a few minutes before I realize how truly incredible she is.
On April 5 she arrived in London… her first flight across the Atlantic Ocean (and first time off the American continent), she was noticeably jet-lagged from this 8-hour flight! Even though it was only 11am, she was ready to pass out, but I told her that the best way to deal is to fight it… keep on until that night and then go to sleep at a reasonable hour. It was a tough sell, hah… but we rushed to Borough Market to grab some food. What ensued for the next 5 days in London was quite a few Happy Hours, a bikeride through Hyde Park, a trip to Borough and Camden Market, escapades through Shoreditch and Soho, and my sister’s newfound obsession with ramen from Wagamama (can report that we ate it 3 times in just 5 days).
After London, we set off to Amsterdam to visit my sister’s old international student friend from University. Staying with him was incredible and we had the opportunity to visit his parents house in the suburbs as well. Then was a quick hop over to Paris where we spent out last 3 days together in the most beautiful Airbnb that I’ve ever seen. The weather was a perfect 50-60 degrees and we got to visit incredible sights like the Palace of Versailles, Notre Dam, the Eiffel Tower, and the Paris Catacombs. I couldn’t have thoughtof a more beautiful way to end the trip.
Moral of the story: studying abroad is amazing, but it’s truly impossible to describe the feeling of happiness that overcomes you when you’re able to share this experience with family and friends that you love!
Until next time, thanks Ali for joining me in Europe! I love you!