My Study Abroad in Europe Was Just as Life-Changing As Everyone Said It Would Be

I learned that I’m obsessed with sunsets. You might even be able to say they’re a passion of mine. I learned that no photo will ever do the real thing justice—but the third Snapchat filter comes pretty close. I learned that the view from my fourth-floor balcony was better than my friend’s view from the third floor, and I learned that, even though the sun sets every single night, I would still pause my movie to watch it.

I learned that “tack” means thank you and that saying “hej” once just isn’t enough. I learned that most people speak more than one language, and I learned that I suck at learning new languages. I learned how universal English really is and how my sarcasm can still be understood thousands of miles from home. I learned that being tall and blonde in Europe means being German or Dutch or Scandinavian, and I learned that it only takes the word “sorry” for people to realize you’re North American.

I learned that I love cobblestone streets until I have to walk on them. I learned that chai lattes taste a little better if you drink them on a patio instead of indoors—and I learned that you never need a good excuse to eat a cinnamon bun. I learned the value of coffee breaks—even if I would probably never like the taste of coffee.

I learned that eye contact on the Metro is basically harassment. I learned that you have to stand on the right side of the escalator and to never stand too close to someone you don’t know. I learned to say “crowns” instead of “kronor,” and I learned that the view from a rooftop bar isn't worth an $11 beer.

I learned that I’m really not a museum person, but I learned to walk through exhibits and stare at artwork as though I knew what I was looking at. I also learned that it's exhausting to pretend to care about a ship that sank 300 years ago. I learned that I really don’t understand modern art. I learned that I’d rather get lost in downtown cafés and vintage shops than take a tour through the Royal Palace—but I learned that the photography museum was worth the $20 entry.

I learned to never take sunlight for granted. I learned to fit a day’s worth of adventure into six hours of daylight, and I learned that it’s impossible to sleep when it’s dark all day. I learned to never take nighttime for granted. I learned that my fourth-floor view isn’t so great when the sun blinds you at 4 a.m. I learned to go to sleep and wake up and never see darkness, and I learned that watching horror movies when the sun is still out isn’t as fun.

I learned that I’m not as afraid of planes as I thought I was. I learned that navigating the subway system is actually pretty easy, and I also learned that the transit doesn’t run all night on weekdays. I learned that friendship has no borders and that there is no place like home. I learned that I love to travel, but I also learned that I love having a place to come back to. I learned that my family means everything, and I learned that no matter far I go, I really can go home again.

They say that studying abroad is a life-changing experience. I don’t know who “they” are, but they were right.

Charlotte is a senior at Western University studying English Lit and the Senior Editor for the Her Campus Western chapter. When she's not bouncing from concert to concert, she can be found spending too much money online shopping, writing anything except essays, or consuming more pasta than thought humanly possible. Follow Charlotte on Instagram: @charemeljanow

You Might Also Enjoy