Coming into this final paper I thought it might be cliché to write a reflection piece. I felt I could find a narrative more creative to talk about my adventure; a more exciting angle to verbalize the experience I gained by facing the otherworldly obstacles and trying to shed my Ameri-cultural ineptitude.
...But then I realized I was thinking about it all too much. Life is what you make of it, and this summer I brought my life to Europe and made the most of it.
A big adventure like this comes with concerns like: "how much will it cost?" "how long can I survive this lifestyle?" "Will I be safe this far from home?"
..."Can I handle it?"
For the most part I got my answers.
I have realized more truths than I can count in the last 30 days. One real truth is you can't find these answers until you live out your questions. Your questions manifest from your problems. These problems cause you to act; that's how you find your solutions. Once you get that far you either fail or you succeed.
And here is where it gets cliché.
You can't have one without the other. Living life in fear of failure will breed no success.
Guest speakers taught us this lesson using the same words of advice and philosophies.
Suzette Hackney——MSU alumna currently at the Indy Star——kicked off our study abroad experience by meeting us in our Paris facilities and teaching us how far character and determination can take you.
Her advice went a little something like:
"Get out there, do your best, find your passion, move on, get stronger, stay true, and grow as an individual, don't let others turn you into something you are not."
Six days later Sam Borden, a New York Times journalist stationed in Paris reinforced the same idea: "Get out there and take risks, get out there and fail."
It sounds like bad advice, but when you hear it twice in one week it really pricks your ears up. So I kept on failing while I was here in Europe. Swiping my money away until I got wrist cramps, getting lost, struggling with the language barrier, starving late at night wishing for drive thru, food poisoning, public transportation, jet-lag, sleepless nights...
The list goes on and on; and yet I am still here alive and well. I'm not sure if that means I am succeeding, but it is definitely a silver lining to all this failure.
Inside that silver lining is a 30-day-long moment that has seemed to last a lifetime, an endless stream of pictures that doesn't even cover half of the things I have seen while abroad. Look a little closer and you see a bond between students that couldn't have been formed any quicker or any stronger (Seriously we dare you to try, #SpartansWill). I can see myself staying in touch with all of these Spartans for years to come. I expect Christmas cards every year.
And that kind of feeling is important, because these people will not only be at my next birthday party, nor will I only talk to them via our newly constructed fantasy football league, but these people will be contacts, co-workers, sources and connections for all days to come.
We shared a part of our lives that is a huge transitional period, moving from the educational side of our young adult lives into our career fields and post-education projects. These relationships are very important to me because my family just got a little bigger.
Not to mention the excellence of my professors Joanne Gerstner and Lori Dickerson for making this entire trip happen. To me, I know these people as my teachers and mentors and my school moms. Others are just lucky to listen to their lectures at MSU or read their works from the New York Times or Detroit Free Press.
I got to know these wonderful women and experience the European cultures with them. It was a special time of my life to have shared with such accomplished and genuinely hard-working journalists/teachers. Without their hard work and dedication to the University and the sports journalism program, this adventure would have never happened.
So here we are 30 days later, 30 days stronger and 30 days wiser; with over 30 new contacts and 30 new friends, and 30x the amount of pictures uploaded and 300x the memories to go with it all.
I climbed the Eiffel tower and saw the Coliseum. I visited the graves of Jim Morrison and Napoleon Bonaparte. I got lost and found Janiculum Hill and discovered the entire Louvre. I danced all night long at clubs in both Paris and Rome. I saw the [hopeful] future host arenas of the 2024 Olympics in Rome. I swam in the Tyrrhenian Sea, played basketball in the projects of Rome and averaged 16,000 steps a day for the month of June.
I have been discovering non-stop this whole past month.
So to address my concerns from the start I would have to say, no I don't know how much its going to cost, all I know is that when I am back in the states that the knowledge and memories gained from this experience will help me cover the debt. It will always be worth it.
"Can I survive a lifestyle like this?" Well I did, and it was tough, and I didn't even complain that much. Although I do miss me some Taco Bell.
"Will I be safe this far from home?" This is probably the toughest question to answer, and that is because the answer is not so clear-cut. For starters the answer is no, I am a cynic and I know what kind of evils are out there in the world—plus there is always Murphy’s Law.
I would be a stupid liar if I told you I said didn't worry about all of the terrorism going on in Europe and the rest of the world, but I would be even more of a fool if I let actions like that hold me back from my freedoms and privileges in this world. While I was here in Europe the Seine river flooded and Britain left the EU, Sports legends Muhammad Ali, Pat Summit and Buddy Ryan all passed away, the Night Club Massacre in Orlando happened and suicide bombers attacked the airport in Turkey.
Danger looms in ever corner of the Earth; people still die, people still get sick, and evil still strikes. Life doesn't stop when you go on vacation, and part of being safe is knowing that you aren't always safe. There are some things in life that cannot be controlled.
The true question, however, was "Can I handle it?" Yes I can, and yes I did. I'm still in Europe as we speak, finishing up some more sightseeing and visiting a few more countries on my list.
Yea I'm homesick, I can't wait to go home and sleep in my bed and enjoy all of my favorite American traditions, cuisines and TV. But my appreciation of home would not have been realized without this vacation.
That doesn't mean I won’t miss a little bit of Europe when I am back in the states. I suspect a minor depression will stay in my bones as a mini-vacay hangover. It's almost guaranteed.
Walking away from this trip I'm 30 days wiser, but it is something much more than that. I cannot put it into words. I gained experience in foreign lands and practically conquered international travel. It's the kind of stuff you can't just read in a book.
So get yourself out there and put yourself in a situation you might not be ready to handle. Maybe you conquer the situation and gain a stellar boost in confidence. Maybe you fail and learn a valuable lesson. Either way, you are living life and creating stories to tell your friends and family.
So I encourage you all to put yourselves out there and make new memories and new friends, trying new thing in new places all around the planet.
How else will you find your way in this world?
(All images in this document belong to me)