Emily Kolek

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Mothering Sunday

On Saturday, May 10 we officially headed across the Atlantic to visit our friends in Great Britain.  Our European adventure began one day before Mother’s Day.  Since I knew I wouldn’t be home to celebrate my mom on the appropriate day she and I created our own Mother’s Day this past Friday. My mom has been itching to visit the Frick Museum‘s, An American Odyssey, art show.  After stopping at Eat N’ Park for a classic breakfast, we attend the exhibit.  Sponsored by the Warner Foundation, the show featured all American painters such as Gilbert Stuart and Childe Hassam with sprinkles of the brilliant Hudson River School works.

Though all artists present were Americans, I found that many studied overseas, specifically in France, including my mom’s favorite artist, Mary Cassatt.  In fact, she was the only American artist to exhibit her work among French Impressionists.   Along with Cassatt, Frederick Carl Frieseke spent most of his life in France studying at the Academie Julian as did Hassam.   Leaving only the next day for my European trip, I paid close attention to the Impressionists who studied in France.  Knowing that fine art is a cultural characteristic of France I wasn’t surprised that artist studied there, but I was a bit surprised to see American artists moving to Paris to better their skills.  Nevertheless, Mom and I had a ton of fun, ending our trip at the Frick at the gift shop and stopping by Starbucks for an afternoon treat.

All these faux Mother’s Day festivities, however, made me wonder if the UK celebrates moms, too.    After a quick Google search, I found that indeed they do! Originally called Mothering Sunday, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, a Christian tradition.  This year British moms were celebrated on March 30th.  No one seems to be sure how Mothering Sunday was started but some speculate that it came after the American holiday was established.  Brit Constance Smith was inspired by American, Anna Jarvis, whose campaign was the root of Mother’s Day in America.  Smith, however, believed that the Church of England expressed praise for mothers on the fourth Sunday of Lent.

Others weren’t sold on Smith’s interpretation of the liturgy.  In 1920 she did, however, write a booklet, The Rival of Mothering Sunday, and argued that it should not be limited to one Christian denomination.  Its popularity soon spread.  Other Mothering Sunday traditions include Christians visiting their Mother Church where churches give children spring flowers as gifts for their mothers.  The British also indulge in a Simnel or fruit cake decorated with 11 marzipan balls, representing the 12 Apostles (not including Judas who betrayed Christ).  Since Mothering Sunday is celebrated during the Lenten season, the Simnel cake is often saved for Easter day.   Furthermore, some contribute Mothering Sunday to the Roman spring festival of Cybele, the mother goddess.

I found it rather interesting that there appears to be at least a little bit of culture behind Great Britain’s celebration of moms.  It wasn’t until I researched Mothering Sunday that I realized President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother’s Day in 1914 in the U.S. due to Anna Jarvis’ campaign to celebrate her mother who passed away.   Regardless if you celebrated Mother’s Day in May or March, it’s never too late (or early, like me!) to celebrate mom!

Thanks BBC for your Simnel cake recipe! Check it out to make your own!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/simnelcake_792

Cheers

Don’t forget your running shoes!

Many would argue that sneakers or tennis shoes are a poor choice due to security checks at the airport.  I beg to differ.  After the experience I had in the Charles de Gaulle airport, I highly recommend wearing your best running shoes.

I like to think I’m a typical traveler.  I get a little anxious and sometimes analyze the “What if” situations but overall I stay pretty cool.  This trip was no different, in fact, I surprisingly felt a little calmer considering I had little responsibility.  I didn’t have to worry about my ticket, my itinerary, transportation – it was all handled for me.  Apparently, I was a bit too confident.

Our first destination was London via Paris.  We took a direct flight from Pittsburgh to Paris and as the plane began to descend for Paris I realized I did not have my boarding pass for the connecting flight. I had a piece of paper which I confused with a boarding pass.  This paper said I had to check-in at the airport.  Not sure why but I had zero time ponder on the past.  Surprisingly, I was calm.  I had no problem checking in at Pittsburgh so I knew I was OK to get on the connecting flight to Paris.  Silly me assumed I would be able to get through security, off to the gate to work it out with the airline attendant.  I was wrong.

I made it to security to find out that they needed to scan the barcode on my official boarding pass.  It was at that point I began to panic.  I was not alone, however.  Two other students and our dedicated professor left the security check where our travel group was to find the AirFrance counter.  As many of you know, I am not fluent in French so asking for help was frustrating especially when we had a limited amount of time.  Unfortunately, our plane from Pittsburgh was delayed and because it takes people forever to get off a plane, we were extremely short on time.

As we waited in line to work out our problems we noticed that there were a limited amount of employees working the AirFrance counter.  The French who believe in a healthy work-life balance obviously wouldn’t have that many employees working on an early Sunday morning. As we waited our turn I prepared my speech to the attendant.  We waited what seemed to be an extremely long time knowing that as soon as our passes were printed we would run back to security crossing our fingers the lines weren’t long.  As we approached the counter I explained to the gentlemen what our problem was.  He seemed like a very easy-going, slow moving man.  I was irritated.  He needed to move faster.  But what does he care if we miss our flight?

After all three passes were printed we ran back to security where we waited in line for about ten minutes.  We continued to stick together knowing that if we missed the plane at least we would all be together.  As soon as we cleared security we sprinted to our gate.  A kind gentleman that I’m sure I hit with my bag cheered us on “Go! Go! Go!”  I appreciated the encouragement because we still weren’t sure if we were going to make it. Thankfully our plane was delayed.  For some strange reason I still had issues at the gate.  That part is more of a blur but it had something to do with purchasing an extra piece of luggage.  As much as I would appreciate a second piece of luggage due (I’ve purchased way too many newspapers and magazines!)  I sure as heck didn’t pay for an extra bag.  Mademoiselle handled the situation and we all successfully boarded our plane to Paris.  I was sweating and a bit overwhelmed but I would see Paris with the rest of the group!

The take-away from my poor assumptions is to make sure you have a legit boarding pass before you board the plane and to wear your sneakers.  You never know when you may need to go on a quick jog!

A bientot!

A Spark in Paris

While waiting to visit The Guardian in London, one of my professors and our tour guide sat down for a short tea break.  One thing I loved about London was their delicious tea.  I always appreciate a good cup of tea.  I also love that the Brits serve tea with cream.  They drink their tea white not black which switched it up for me as I normally go cream-less.  Tea with cream is like a bonus, an extra-special something.  Nevertheless, we were relaxing after a long afternoon that still wasn’t over and our tour guide asked how I liked London.  I told him I really liked it but it didn’t ignite a spark of excitement inside.  Just because I have a spark doesn’t mean I didn’t like it.  London is a great place with a lot to offer.

The National Portrait Gallery was fabulous.  I’ve never seen that many works by Monet in one spot, it was magnificent – eating dinner out with new friends at a local pub and trying new drinks specific to England, super fun – watching the pomp and circumstance of the changing of the guard ceremony, quite an experience especially when you meet a local who was ex-military. My favorite parts of London, however, are their parks.  They have such beautiful parks and so many of them! You have to try extremely hard to not walk past one or through one.  They appreciate their green space and use them to their fullest.   No doubt, London is a cool place.  I always ask myself after I leave a place I’ve never been before, if I could live there.  Yes, I could absolutely live in London.  Still, it didn’t give me that spark of excitement inside.  That happened when I arrived in France.

Paris gave me that spark.  Sure, Paris sometimes smells like pee but I’m OK with that.  I love the history that surprises you around every corner, the cafes that are always filled with folks enjoying their café and baguette and the city’s  easy-going attitude.  It truly isn’t what I expected.  I believed that the French would live up to their stereotype of being rude and arrogant, that’s not necessarily the case.  Sure, some can be a bit rude but it’s nothing you can’t find at home.

There is something magical in the Paris air.  The city lights along the Seine that illuminate Notre Dame are magnificent.  Watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle is magical.  The artists in Montmartre are inspiring.  The Tuileries gardens are refreshing.  On the surface it may not seem so different from other cities.  Other cities can be magical and inspiring but for me, it’s not quite the same.  This comes as a surprise to me as I began this adventure sure that I would fall in love with London.

I sat along the Seine enjoying dinner with some of my classmates and one asked the group if we could actually live here.  Yes, I could live here.   Not forever but for a short period of time.  I understand that I’m appreciating France’s cultural characteristics without acknowledging their healthcare, politics and economics.   That discussion is for a different day.  On a purely cultural level, I would love to spend more time in this city.  I know I’m in the minority, most of my classmates prefer London over Paris and that’s quite alright.

Enjoy some of my favorite things London and Paris has to offer.

A bientot!

Paris
Sacre Coeur – Sacred Heart, Paris
Buckingham Palace - London
Buckingham Palace – London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eiffel Tower - Paris
Eiffel Tower – Paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sein River at night - Paris
River Sein at night – Paris

 

 

 

 

 

Warm goat cheese salad - Paris
Warm goat cheese salad – Paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Classic fish & chips - London
Classic fish & chips – London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kensington Gardens - London
Kensington Gardens – London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magic of Disney

I’m a big fan of Disney World.  I love visiting “the most magical place on earth.”  I truly feel like a kid while in Disney – riding classic rides like Dumbo and proudly standing in line with toddlers anxiously waiting to see the princesses.

I was equally excited to visit Disneyland Paris.  Disneyland also served as a media visit which made the idea of going to Disney even more exciting.  The discussion we had focused on the cultural differences Disneyland faces being a European tourist destination.  The Disney cast members (employees) also discussed the beginning of Disneyland Paris and the challenges it had to overcome to become an accepted and popular destination for the French people.  Overall, it was a great visit.  They were thrilled we were there and even gave us gifts – Frozen travel mugs.  Bonus!

My previous post detailed my appreciation for Paris and how I really have been enjoying my time in the city.  I’m not exactly sure when this feeling or thought occurred, but I had no interest in being at Disneyland anymore.  Knowing all the fabulous things I could be seeing in Paris, I found myself 45minutes away from the city at Disneyland, an American company. It just didn’t make sense to me.  While in France, why would I visit Disneyland? It didn’t sit right with me and I turned into a crabby pants.  I was extremely tired when we visited Disney and the cold, rainy weather added to my anti-Disney attitude.   Because we visited with media folks at Disney they kindly bought our Disney passes for the day.  Since they treated us so well I felt obligated to spend some time in the park and I’ll admit, I was curious to see how Disneyland Paris compares to Disney World.  And remember, I’m not anti-Disney so of course I wanted to see the princesses!

I downloaded the Disneyland Paris app just to see what they had to offer.  I noticed it was very similar to what Disney World has in its park but I still was excited to see it for myself.  The two parks are so similar that again, I felt like it was a waste of my time knowing I could be doing something fabulous in Paris.  That’s not to say I didn’t ride a few rides, I needed to make it worth my time! The lines were short for the rides which was great.  The most disappointing part of my day was when I was told I needed a reservation to see the princesses.  What?! Why can’t I just wait in line with the other 8 year olds to see Belle? It was then I realized that my dreams were not going to come true that day.  I did, however, get to meet Minnie in her springtime outfit which made me smile.  She was absolutely adorable and I had no shame waiting at least 20 minutes to see her.

The day wasn’t so bad but it wasn’t my favorite.  I totally understand why Europeans visit Disneyland Paris, that’s their Disney World and it’s a great place to visit.  I’m sure all the other Disney parks are just as fun but when visiting a new place, like Paris, I would suggest skipping out on the magic of Disney and save that for your next U.S. vacation.

A bientot!

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Grocery Shopping

When I visit a new place I try to pretend I live there – doing what the average person does on a typical day.  While in London I would wake up early and take a morning walk observing what goes on as people make their way to work.  I sat in the nearby park people watching, seeing how Londoners started their day.  I enjoy this.  It makes me feel more culturally engaged.

Grocery shopping is a normal, ordinary thing to do so I like to check out the grocery stores in the places I visit.  I’m curious if they are similar to what we have in the U.S., more specifically, Pittsburgh, what kind of products do they sale, etc.  While there was no real purpose for me to visit a grocery store since there was no place for me to store or cook the food, I still went into a nearby Waitrose grocery store to check it out.

The first thing I noticed when walking into the store were the beautiful fresh bouquets of flowers.  I checked out the prices and while my mental conversion from pounds to dollars isn’t top notch, I don’t think they were that expensive, especially for the quality.  So beautiful!  I specifically was looking for their tea aisle.  I tried a delicious Twinings tea flavor that I swear I’ve never seen in the States before and I just had to purchase some before we left.  On my way to the tea aisle I passed their juices.  They weren’t refrigerated but they were in much smaller containers compared to what we find here.  I personally think juice comes in way too big containers and I never can drink it all.  I really appreciated their small juice containers.  Perhaps that’s a silly observation but one I appreciated! I also noticed that though they have some of the same cereal brands as we do, their packaging seems to be a bit different.  Kit-Kats also caught my eye as their packaging was differed from ours.

Other observations included a basket only checkout.  Though somewhat different, I compared this to our 10 items or less concept.  There were specific lines for customers who were only shopping with a basket.  Those who had actual carts were to checkout at a different location.  I also noticed that packaged food was popular – salads, fruits, sandwiches.  They all looked fresh and delicious.

As I stood in line to purchase my Cranberry & Raspberry tea, I picked up a free magazine published by the grocery store.  This supplement was great! It offered 29 recipes from desserts to jams, side dishes to main dishes. As long as I can successfully make the conversions, I plan on using these recipes!  I also picked up a brochure to join their rewards program, myWaitrose.  Though the pamphlet never confirms, I do believe there is a fee to join.  By joining you will receive perks like free coffee or tea everyday and a free magazine published by the grocery store with a value of £1.20.  We obviously have reward programs here though I’m not sure how many we have to pay for.  Grocery stores here also provide free magazines with product info and recipes but I haven’t seen one quite as nice as the one I picked up.

The check-out process was nothing new; however, it appeared that I was responsible for bagging my own groceries.  I didn’t pay that close of attention to the women who checked-out before me but the employee didn’t really make an effort to bag my groceries so I took the hint and bagged my own.

At home, I usually dislike grocery shopping.  Next to car shopping, it may be the worst kind of shopping; however, it’s always an interesting experience to do ordinary things in a new place.

Cheers!

Check out the grocery store for yourself:  http://www.waitrose.com

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photo 1 (1)

 

 

 

 

 

Extra…Extra, Read all about it!

Becoming a journalist really isn’t my end goal after I graduate from graduate school, however; I was infatuated by how the media, specifically the newspaper industry, works in both the United Kingdom and France.  Below are some quick and dirty facts I learned about some of the top European newspapers/news industry.

Fact #1

Newspapers in England are self-regulatory. This may not be a surprise to you, but I believe it’s important to note.

Fact #2

Several newspapers are owned by Rupert Murdoch.  Mr. Murdoch isn’t big on sharing world news because he believes that world news is toxic.

Fact #3

In England, Broadcasters, legally, must be politically unbiased.  I know the idea behind journalism is to report the news in an unbiased tradition.  But to be legally bound, that was different.

Fact #4

The Guardian is owned and supported by a Trust.  While most papers in England are hurting for money so they can stay alive, The Guardian is on safe ground.  One of our presenters during our Guardian visit explained to us that a Trust was established so that the paper could continue long after the family who once owned it was no longer alive.  In a world where newspapers are just getting by, The Guardian must feel pretty lucky to have a continuous cash flow.  Now, that Trust may run out but I never got the vibe that it was going to run out soon.

Fact #5

French newspapers (as well as other news outlets, like broadcast) are largely supported by the French government.  The first time I learned that the government supported the media (and we heard that on multiple occasions) I was shocked! The French newspaper industry is failing. The economy paired with the internet has been a deadly mix for the industry.  In 1881 the people of France fought hard to gain freedom of the press.  Watching the newspaper industry crumble is equivalent to watching their freedom die.  To the French, the press means freedom.  The French government along with top executives in the industry appear to be actively working to uphold the French newspaper industry.  Seeing that newspapers are also becoming a thing of the past in the States, perhaps we should think twice about this idea of freedom.

Fact #6

Journalism in France is a distinguished profession as they receive a 30% tax reduction,  their way of preserving the profession.  Journalists and the media as a whole are often viewed poorly by the public.

Fact #7

In both England and France, the public must pay a television tax which allows them to view channels like the BBC and France24, among others. Perhaps Americans would like to pay a TV tax? I’m sure our public broadcasting would greatly appreciate such a tax.

Fact #8

It was mentioned during our visits in London and Paris that American journalists and news outlets are looked upon as role models.

Learning about the media landscape in Europe, specifically the newspaper industry made me reflect on the industry in the U.S.   It’s not a surprise that readership is down and that people are turning to the web for their news.    Perfecting timing – while in France I read the article that Richard Scaife wrote on the newspaper industry.   Great parallel between what I learned in Europe and the problems we face in the U.S.

http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/6132589-74/newspapers-lives-media#axzz33d1rCpVY

Cheers!

I would like to note that the facts listed above came from a variety of sources during our various media visits.  

Historical Northern France

As you know by now, much of our time overseas was spent visiting various media outlets.  Our final two days, however, took on a more historical perspective.   We were constantly on the go so it was rather refreshing to slow down and do something and learn something different.With the 70th anniversary of D-Day only days away, it is only appropriate that I share my Normandy experience with you.

I’ll admit that I’m not really a history buff so sadly much of the information I learned I was hearing for the first time.There were many beaches involved in the attack but arguably the most famous is Omaha Beach also referred to as The Bloody Beach.  The atmosphere at Omaha was sincere and somber.  It’s a beautiful beach which made it easy to forget the significant events that once occurred there.  It’s not a resort beach by any means, no one was wearing their bathing suits but everyday life was occurring.  A man was walking his dog and I also so a group in the water with what looked to be a canoe type boat.  Life carried on.  But when you paused to remember what happened 70 years ago, it’s quite breathtaking.  Thanks to our tour guide we learned that the men who invaded the Germans at Omaha Beach were more than likely sea sick and soaked with water from the English Channel’s rough tides and they were carrying about 60 pounds on their backs.  I pictured these soldiers and then looked at the incredible cliff they had to climb to reach the Germans and was in awe.  It was then I sadly understood why Omaha got its nickname The Bloody Beach.

The cemetery was equally beautiful and moving.  It reminded me of Arlington National Cemetery.  All the crosses were perfectly aligned bringing peace to what was not a peaceful situation.  Knowing that this was a representation of the United States, I felt proud watching the school trips tour the cemetery – they were learning (perhaps more than our school children learn) about our United States history and our contribution to WWII.

I also toured the visitor’s center which is a semi-new addition to the memorial.  Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to actively tour the entire facility but it provided detailed information about the actual plan of attack and had heavy emphasis on the soldiers that participated in the invasion.  It was chilling to hear their names read aloud.

Upon leaving Omaha we visited Pointe du Hoc where German bunkers still stand.  Both Omaha Beach and Pointe du Hoc are United States territories.  The U.S. owns and cares for the land, proudly flying our national flag.

I don’t believe my pictures do the beaches justice considering the history they hold but I do hope they allow you to feel pride for the United States.  Though a moving experience, the trip to Normandy heightened my need of learning more about our nation’s history beginning with the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 2014.

I would also like to note that the overall impression received by the French is sincere and gracious.  I think that’s important for us to know and remember.

Cultural Differences

I really enjoyed identifying the cultural differences between our American culture and the culture found in Paris and London.  Some are a bit more superficial and some I actually did some research on.  Below are my most noticeable and notable differences.

Televisions:

Not all channels are 24 hours.  There were many nights my roommates and I would turn on the TV to find that TV channels also go to bed at night.  I’ve never come across a channel in the U.S. that isn’t running 24 hours a day.  These stations actually say they will return for viewing tomorrow morning at 8pm (or something along those lines!).  Perhaps this speaks to our fast-paced society in which we live.  I personally think that if TV channels stopped running at a certain time, those channels would receive negative feedback from its American viewers.  Television channels may also stop running because the channels may be funded by the government and if their viewership significantly decreases, perhaps the channels can’t justify running.  Regardless of the reason, it was a new concept to me both in France and London.

Night Life:

The Parisians stay up way past my bedtime.  From what I’ve observed, the Parisians start their work day a little later than our norm, say 9am-ish.  Because they start late, they leave work late.  After they get off of work they go to a restaurant for dinner, where they take their time to eat their meal and people watch.  After a long day of media visits mixed with some touring, we would be making our way back to our hotel rooms around 11pm, exhausted.  The French were still at the cafes and restaurants wide awake, drinking, eating and carrying on their conversations.  I wish I had that energy!

One evening while eating dinner with a few others, we asked our waiter (who spoke English) where he goes out at.  He then explained to us that he would go to a bar at around 9pm, have a few drinks and then go out.  Didn’t he already go out by going to the bar? Apparently that was just going out for dinks.  Around 11pm he would officially go out which we understood to be a more nightclub/dance club type place and stay until the early morning.  Nevertheless, the idea of “going out” was new to me.

Long Days:

Perhaps France’s long days play into why the French stay out so late, at least in the warmer months.  I typically eat dinner around 5-6pm.  Parisians eat dinner so much later than that which may direction correlate with how long the sun stays shinning.  Again, these are just observations but from the short time I was there, I found myself not wanting to eat dinner that early.  I, too, wanted to eat dinner later and I think the sun being out until 11pm-ish had something to do with that.  The days seemed so much longer there, which I greatly appreciated!

Take-Away:

What we would consider To-go or Take-out, Londoners and Parisians consider that to be called Take-Away.  In France (and I believe in London as well) you rarely take-away.  Parisians like to sit down and enjoy their food and drink.  If you can take-away, there will be a sign that informs you that the restaurant has take-away options.  Many times the take-away would differ in cost than if you were to sit and eat at the restaurant.  Coffee and tea to-go is simply unheard of in Paris.  One morning I took my tea to-go and our tour guide informed me that he knew I was American because I was drinking my tea on the go.  He said more and more you’ll find Parisians taking their drinks to go but the concept is still new and American.

Dating a Parisian

While sitting by the river in Paris we made friends with a group of male Parisians.  Somehow the question was asked how they hit on girls when they go out and vice versa.  Apparently, simply making eye contact and smiling at a male Parisian meant you viewed him as boyfriend material.  I wasn’t convinced that this was true so I asked our trusted tour guy and he confirmed.  What?! I just thought I was being friendly! I smiled at way too many men on the metro which is perhaps why they all gave me such strange looks back.  It also explains why so many women look miserable; they don’t want to give the wrong impression to the men! It all makes sense now!

A bientot!

Farewell!

Omaha Beach
Omaha Beach

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Omaha Beach
Omaha Beach
"The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves."
“The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves.”
Normandy American Cemetery
Normandy American Cemetery
Pointe du Hoc
Pointe du Hoc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Change in Me

I don’t think you can travel without your travel experiences affecting you in some way.   When you connect with something or someplace that connection, that feeling you get changes the person you are and hope to become.  Regardless of where you travel to, that place is a new experience, a new adventure and it will take some affect on you.

When you travel to a new place, you really have to let go off any worry or anxiety you may have beforehand.  You can’t control what is about to happen because you know so little going in, you simply must go with the flow. While at the airport waiting to leave Pittsburgh, I told one of my professors that I always seem to get a little nervous before I fly.  She totally understood but also told me that I really don’t have any control over what is going to happen and once I grasped that concept, I would be much more relaxed.  I believe she was referring to the actual plane ride but it can be applied to the entire journey!

Before we left for Europe I was just finishing my first year of graduate school.  Though I truly love being in school, it was quite a challenge.  Not only was I focused on success in the classroom but going back to school was a lifestyle change and adjusting was not easy.  Not only financially, but mentally, physically and socially, I had to work hard at adjusting to my new lifestyle.  At times it was trying but I have definitely grown into a better person because of my experiences.

This trip overseas, however; allowed me to completely let go of any worry or anxiety and just take each experience for what it was.  I haven’t felt as healthy as I did in Europe in some time.  I had no control over what was in store for me each day and that felt amazing.  I truly lived and loved every moment.

There are two factors that I firmly believe added to my healthy state of mind. They are traveling with (almost) strangers and limited access to social media.  Though we were all in class together throughout the semester, there was little time for interpersonal communication among the class.  I don’t even think I remembered everyone’s name when we left for London.  Pathetic! However, when you don’t really know someone, there is little room for judgment.  We were our own person when we were with each other and no one judged one another based on past experiences.  Naturally, groups of friends formed but that’s not to say you couldn’t leave your group and go with another group.  No one cared who you were with, you always felt welcomed.  It added to the feeling of openness and it was wonderful.

I don’t think we realize the stresses social media causes in our daily lives.  I loved not knowing how much weight you lost, seeing that embarrassing picture of your child or who got engaged.  The idea behind social media is that it’s real time, its instant news.  I’ve noticed that my Facebook newsfeed goes back pretty far so if I want to see what you did at the gym that day, I still could.  Not having internet access or even the time to get on the web made me realize that life isn’t about statuses or newsfeeds and I shouldn’t care as much about it as I do.  I also enjoyed having real conversations with people.  We actually spoke to one another, learned something about each other without the distraction of our cell phones.  Removing myself from technology was truly a needed relief.

I’m extremely thankful for this experience – it allowed me to be me.  I’m a different person because of this journey and the adventures I had. There are a few people  I need to thank in conclusion of my blog -thank you to my new friends whom I shared this journey with, to my professors, to the Fallon Travel Fund which helped make this adventure possible and to our trusted tour guide, Vincent, from Awesome Guide, who went above and beyond to make our experience memorable.

Until my next adventure…

Au Revoir,

Emily

Several of my new friends and our fabulous tour guide!
Several of my new friends and our fabulous tour guide!

 

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