I was sitting in a cafe in Copenhagen, Denmark, across from my best friend. Although we’re studying in different cities in the United Kingdom, we’ve managed to travel together on three separate trips. He leaves for home on Friday, but I’m staying on this side of the pond for just a bit longer.
Over a delicious Scandinavian breakfast of yogurt and fresh berries, with sourdough toast and massive bowls of coffee, we began reflecting on our time in Europe. For me, it was a mix of plenty of studying with some traveling as well, while his experience was characterized by an internship and traveling. Slightly different, but both equally enriching.
When I asked the million dollar question of “What was your favorite moment while abroad?” he was not sure how to respond. I also found that it is far easier to ask than to answer that question.
For me, I know the moment incredibly well, but only because I chose to savor it and because of my unrestrained happiness in that exact moment.
I was sitting on the banks of the Seine River on a sunny day. I was joined by three of my new study abroad friends whom I met upon arriving in St. Andrews, two from New Zealand, one from the states. We had just purchased take-away from an outpost of a Michelin-starred chef, and we were looking forward to taking a few still moments after touring for most the day. Taking in the sun, watching boats flit up and down the river and eating delicious food with new friends. I was blissful, to say the least.
For my friend, his moment was slightly different. He found himself near another body of water, on the coast of Spain, with another newfound friend. Again, slightly different but still moments to be appreciated.
It’s very common to have moments of ultimate appreciation while traveling Europe for five or so months. I find myself saying, “Thank you” to the universe almost every day for my current situation. There’s always something new and different that catches me off guard just enough to remind me that I’m an ocean away from my family and friends.
For different people abroad, the moments which stand out in our memories will inevitably vary. For some, it may be a night at a pub in Dublin, characterized by amazing music and an authenticity unlike anything else. For others, it may be a morning spent walking along the Arno River in Florence, espresso in hand and surrounded by silence.
Interestingly, if you ask any student studying abroad about their favorite moment, it will most likely not include a monument or museum. Of course, walking through the Uffizi Gallery was an unbelievable experience for me, but it was not my most favorite moment from being abroad.
The beauty of studying abroad is that it’s not the beautiful monuments that dominate postcards which make the difference in your experience. Sure, you have to see the Eiffel Tower and take a spin on the London Eye. But don’t discount the moments walking from one attraction to the next. A random turn could bring you to your new favorite part of the city. Essentially, savoring moments from abroad should include the big sites, but the best times are often an amalgamation of the little things. The tiny bar here or the walk off the beaten path there. Stringing small memories together is what makes studying abroad so worth it. These are the times that cannot be replicated in Boston, no matter how hard we may try.