Today I am on my way back to Minnesota and then on to Augustana in Sioux Falls. I couldn’t be more excited to see everyone and share my experiences from the summer.
I spent the past week in Paris and London and it has been a whirlwind of travel and people. I feel so fortunate to have become friends with individuals around the world at the International Summer School and to have been able to visit them in their home countries. One thing I have learned on my trek through (a portion of) Europe is how hospitable and open people are. Kayla and I met Naby in Paris to eat dinner and drink wine along the canal while sitting and talking about everything from societal and political issues to our hopes for the future. Parisians are nothing like the stereotype we hear. They are so kind and willing to help out a stranger, you just have to be willing to ask for help. In London we met Sahel for Shawarma and spent our time sightseeing. We even went bouldering in a renovated castle. Yes, a castle. In Oslo we were unexpectedly welcomed into the home of an acquaintance who kindly allowed me to store my luggage at her apartment. Instead of camping in the rain we got to sleep in real beds.
Karma has been on my side and it is why I feel the need to share my experiences and encourage others to go and wander the world. For someone who plans out everything, this trip has been anything but planned. That is why it was so amazing. In education we talk a lot about the Circle of Courage. As teachers we can help our students excel inside and outside the classroom by providing a sense of Belonging, helping students achieve Mastery, helping students gain Independence, and encouraging students to be Generous. My summer has allowed me to find a place with people where I feel that I Belong, Master the ups and downs of travel (and survive Ryan Air flights), become extremely Independent, and now I hope to become half as Generous as the people who have welcomed me into their lives since June.
Generosity comes in all forms, whether it be monetary or the sharing of thoughts and ideas. Simple things like giving the rest of my change to a woman in Paris or sharing leftover groceries with a man in Oslo are the moments we should look for. Yes, I’m a poor college student, and I’ve often said college is one of the most egocentric things we do, but those small moments of generosity are what make someone’s day. People generously shared their thoughts and ideas with me this summer not only at the University of Oslo, but in Italy, France, and London. Travel can be difficult and frustrating at times, but small acts of kindness like the man asking if we were lost and needed help in Paris or talking to travelers who shared their life stories over dinner are what made my trip so special. I hope to bring this type of generosity back to Augustana and continue sharing it after graduation.
This serves as my last blog post for the summer, but I hope to continue blogging as I travel to Haridwar, India to volunteer at the Sri Ram Ashram Orphanage in January. Thank you for all of your support!
Crowds of people at the Eiffel Tower
Dinner with Naby next to the canal in Paris
The Castle climbing gym in London
Lunch with Sahel
My time in Italy has been absolutely amazing. I’ve met so many amazing people! Today we are headed to Paris to experience some great art and meet some Parisian friends.
Overcoming language barriers has been an interesting experience while in Italy. I am continually impressed by people who are working to improve their English speaking skills. We met a man from Russia in a hostel and he told us that he had not taken an English class in ten years. We managed to have an hour long conversation with him about his travels in Italy and life in Russia. We’ve had to make a lot of flailing hand gestures to try to communicate with people, but we’ve also learned the importance of paying attention and really listening during a conversation. It is easy to space out and not truly listen to someone, but here, it’s imperative to pay attention the entire time.
Our time in Venice and Milan was great, but Bergamo, which is just outside of Milan is the real Italy. We are right next to the Alps with vineyards everywhere and some amazing sights and people. Coming to Bergamo was an impulse decision and it couldn’t have worked out better. Our hosts at the Bed and Breakfast are so kind and willing to show us around. We even stumbled upon a huge town celebration. It is much more fun to take the path less traveled.
Today I was struck by the way people perceive Americans. A few Italian folks asked us why we love war so much because we are from America. This generalization is difficult to hear, but something we should all think about. Why are we constantly at war? I was born into a country that has been at war since I was 6 years old, yet we know very little about what we are fighting for. My studies this summer have shown me the importance of searching for good sources of information, but also helping others to see that generalizations do not accurately reflect an entire culture or nation. Although I tried to explain that not all Americans support the war, it was very difficult to do through the language barrier. I have become much more aware of the things I say while abroad because I am acting as an unofficial ambassador for my country. A generalization could be made from one word I say in a casual conversation to someone on the street in Bergamo, Italy. Food for thought…literally seeing as this occurred while we were having dinner.
All in all, Italy was great and I hope to come back in the future, especially to Bergamo. I can see why so many great artists became inspired while in Italy, it’s gorgeous. I can’t wait to get into the studio and paint!
The Duomo in Milan
I found this while climbing the stairs to the top of the Duomo Cathedral 🙂
Parade in Bergamo!
Street performer in the Upper Town (Bergamo) and reactions from the crowd 🙂
View from the castle in Bergamo (when Venice ruled the area)
Although I miss Norway, I’m happy to be off wandering in different parts of Europe (I’m also happy about the cheaper food…and wine). Trolltunga in Odda, Norway was a gorgeous bike/hike/climb and reunion with some great folks from Augustana. I’ve also experienced some of the nicest hospitality in Europe. Either it’s good luck from the 1 kroner coin I picked up at the metro stop, or genuinely nice people. I’d like to think both.
Kayla and I spent the last three days in Rome experiencing its rich history. Just picture art major Aimée running around Rome spewing out facts from art history class (THANK YOU DR. TWA)! Having a basic knowledge of the sites I visited made the experience that much more special. The Colosseum was incredible, and the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica were gorgeous. I think the best part of my experience so far has been going off the beaten path and away from the crazy tourist sites to relax and take in the atmosphere. I successfully completed my first AirBnB experience with a wonderful host just outside of the Roma city center and I met an incredible couple from Holland who shared their travel experiences in Africa and Europe…Dialogue 🙂 I’ve also made use of Steinar’s advice to continually ask questions, even they seem like dumb questions.
Our first experiences in Italy have also given me time to appreciate and reflect on my life back home. I’ve learned the importance of enjoying the moment and not worrying…hakuna matata. I should probably listen to my tattoo more often. It is such a privilege as a poor college student to have the opportunity and time to travel around Europe. I’m so thankful for the support my friends, family, and job. I’ve gained a greater appreciation for my parents who took all over the United States when I was younger. Seeing how time consuming it is to navigate with two people, I can only imagine the difficulty my parents faced trying to herd me and my sister around. I’ve never been away from home for so long so this has been an good exercise in trusting that everything will work out when I get back. Finally, I’ve learned to be a bit more outgoing (not a ton, but better than my usual introvert self). Striking up conversation with random people while waiting in line for the bathroom or waiting for a tour at the Vatican to begin is a priceless experience.
I’m excited to begin the next leg of our journey in Milan and Venice, Ciao!
Getting ready for Trolltunga!
Norway has the best ice cream.
Oh my gosh!!
St. Peter’s Basilica!
Best Gelato Ever.9
Apologies for the delayed post, our last week at ISS was incredibly busy! As much as I love staying in contact with everyone back home, I’ve learned just how important it is to be really be with the people you are surrounded by.
6,000 words and two 15 minute presentations later, I completed both my film class and Peace Scholars seminar. It will take some time to really sit down and reflect on my education here in Oslo, I’m still moving, as Steinar would say.
It is extremely difficult to reach the end of an incredible experience. I’ve made so many close friends here in Oslo, but I know we will meet again. This is only the beginning! For me, August is the beginning in many ways. I’m beginning a trip through Europe with my best friend and meeting some friends along the way. I’m beginning my senior year at Augustana. And I’m beginning my future, wherever it takes me.
This summer I’ve learned to take chances and to say, “what luck,” as Sandra Looney always says. I never fully grasped the meaning of her saying until this summer as I learned to just let things be and enjoy the happy accidents along the way. I spent the last two days in Oslo with no plans and nowhere to stay except the great outdoors. I ended up camping with some amazing friends (Kayla, Chase, Naby, an Erica) and spent time exploring Oslo and relaxing. It was one of the most enjoyable camping experiences I’ve had, especially waking up to a storm. 🙂
I’m now in Bergen with Kayla and Thad and tomorrow we are heading to Odda to embark on one of the best hikes, Trolltunga. This trip has been full of many happy accidents (except for being stung by a bee, that wasn’t a happy moment). I am continually impressed by the kindness of complete strangers, and we haven’t even left Norway! I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to travel Europe. As Americans we sometimes forget just how lucky we are to have the opportunity to travel in a world where everyone can speak our language and teach us about their culture. My challenge for my adventure in Europe is to dig deeper than the tourist sites, to ask questions, and to immerse myself in the culture.