“When I met you in the summer!” This very phrase sums up summer 2014 perfectly for me. The amount of people I’ve been blessed to meet along with the different countries I was able to explore made that summer the journey of a lifetime.
Summer ’14 felt as though I was in my own version of the music video for the song “Summer” by Calvin Harris. This simple phrase carries with it an enormous amount of weight that has left behind a great deal of memories imprinted in my mind and in my heart that will follow me for the rest of my life.
I was looking out the large windows of Chicago O’ Hare International airport at the skyline of the city of Chicago when I noticed the impeccably beautiful Boeing 747 and it finally hit me. This was it, this was the moment I had been waiting for all semester; I was getting ready to depart the United States with my sights set on Europe for an entire month. The class I was attending on this study abroad was Aviation Appreciation, administered by the Daytona Beach campus and serves the sole purpose of educating the student on what and how aviation got started here in the United States as well as overseas through two world wars.
The one thing everyone talks about when they describe their experiences studying abroad is personal growth and embarking on the most fulfilling journey of their lives. I get the chills every time I think back to how much Europe changed me as a person. Being 20 years old at the time, getting an opportunity to live in a foreign country for a month, having to rethink everything I thought I knew about life and navigate around a place I had only seen in movies was the scariest and most rewarding experience of my life.
When I returned to the United States and looked at myself in the mirror for the first time so much had changed. The way I saw the world and what I wanted my future to entail was completely different than what it was when I first began my journey at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University 2 years prior to this trip. Being a guy from New Orleans, LA this type of thing isn’t something anyone expects would ever be possible for him or her. It really was honestly one of the most surreal moments of my life. My eyes were opened wider than they had ever had been. I was now aware and cognizant of different ways of life, culture and people and I couldn’t even begin to imagine how I was going to be able to return to my routine. I had grown so much spiritually and emotionally; I had fallen deeply in love with Europe.
There’s still not a single day that goes by that I don’t think about the times I spent abroad…watching the changing of guards at Buckingham Palace, catching the tube to visit new friends (whom I still talk to two years later), soaking in all of the beauty that Parliament and the London Eye reveal under the dark skies of London, riding up to the top of the Eiffel Tower to check out life altering views of downtown Paris, lying in the grass at midnight to watch the light show dancing up and down the Eiffel Tower flaunting all of its pure iconic beauty, visiting the incredibly heavy and emotional grounds of the Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany where you could just feel the empty cold empty dark souls that roamed the grounds of the camp during World War II, getting a chance to ditch an engine and glide over the countryside of Germany with the German Alps at the forefront of my view…
That trip taught me so much about a subject that I’ve been passionate about ever since I could talk and say the word, “airplane”. I learned about the people that live on that side of the world and how they truly perceive the world and how they feel life should be lived. It has helped me become a more well rounded and accepting individual to every different culture and background that I now encounter in my life.
I believe the most valuable benefit of my experience studying abroad was the person I became as a result of being overseas and having to rethink how to navigate through life through everyday activities and responsibilities. I found myself scared yet excited, shocked but intrigued leaving me with a greater since of appreciation for other cultures and their lifestyles. I could not understand that by staying here in my own country studying a particular subject.
This world is so large and truly magnificent and I believe every singe human being owes it to themselves to get out there explore, enjoy, learn, and just take in all that has been given to us to experience. Studying Abroad is truly a life altering experience that is priceless beyond words and should be taken full advantage of. I enjoyed my study abroad experience so much that I am currently in the process of preparing for my second study abroad this summer the Troubles in Ireland class being administered by Professor Austin. My advice to you is to get out there and take advantage of this beautiful planet we all call home. There’s a whole world out there just waiting for you to discover. You owe it to yourself to discover the mysteries of this life that will help mold and define you as who you were always destined to be in this world.
“Traveling. It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”