The past couple weeks have been some of the best in my experience abroad so far. This is because I had the opportunity to leave France for a bit and explore more of Europe – something I anticipated greatly upon coming abroad. It was the two weeks of my winter break, so I wanted to choose my destinations wisely.
I knew that I wanted to explore some of northern Europe while here. I would have another vacation from school in the springtime, so it made the most sense to use this period to visit some of the Scandinavian countries, where I could appreciate the cold and icy weather. That way I could check out warmer locations like Spain and Italy in the spring. Ultimately, a couple friends and I decided to make our trip out to Sweden, Poland, and Norway.
Our first stop was Stockholm, Sweden – a city filled with frosty rivers and a nice variety of architectural styles. There was so much of the city to explore, but some of the highlights were the Swedish cafes to start the days, photo sessions with the pretty buildings, and a visit to the Vasa Museum (home of the only preserved ship from the 17th century !).
Gdańsk, Poland exuded a more simple beauty than previously seen in Stockholm. There were a lot of cute gift shops and walking paths. The Polish seemed to appreciate following a theme, as they used many bright and vibrant colors to decorate the city. We ended our last day in Poland with a ride on the Ferris Wheel, to appreciate the beauty of the city from high above. It was a euphoric experience to simply bask in the joy of being in a foreign country, listen to positive music, and enjoy the company of friends while looking over Poland.
The weather in Oslo, Norway ended up being just as I wanted it. The first day, the snow fell as we walked through the city. I really wanted to see snow in action in this notoriously icy country, so I was pleased. The next few days, there was a layer of snow on the ground that we could appreciate as we explored. In Norway, we visited art museums, took a walk through a park of sculptures, and even experienced a Norwegian bar.
Finally, as my friends returned to Bordeaux, I wanted to fulfill one of my initial goals – to take a solo trip in Europe. I decided to do this in London, England, and I was so glad I did so. There is so much to appreciate when you travel alone, and even better, you can set your own pace. I was able to move quickly throughout the city to visit multiple museums, days markets, and restaurants each day. The tube made traveling so easy, and I loved just to listen to music as I quickly moved about the city.
Each of these short adventures taught me so much. I was able to gain a small appreciation for each of these cultures as I spoke with the locals, admired the sights, and tried new foods like deer pizza, perogies, and authentic fish and chips. They also made me appreciate so much more the benefits of learning a new language. These trips make me want to start a new language challenge once I return to the United States so I can better connect to these places the next time I visit.