Three years ago, I met a prostitute in Amsterdam’s Red Light District. She was sitting in a pink wooden chair behind a large glass window with a red velvet curtain, rocking a pink sequin bikini and eating a bag of barbeque potato chips.
It was the summer after I graduated high school, the same summer I turned nineteen, and rather than taking part in the Maryland high school tradition of “Beach Week,” I strapped a giant backpack to my shoulders, invested in an international cell phone, and shipped myself off to Europe with a few of my closest friends. My parents figured anything was smarter than a beach house full of beer-guzzling teenagers. Ha.
That night in Amsterdam, my friends and I were on our way to the final club of our fifteen-dollar bar crawl. We’d spent the night wandering around the city, hopping from bars to clubs to abandoned churches-turned-dance caves, and had finally landed in Amsterdam’s notorious Red Light District. I was standing in line for a bar wedged in between a cluster of the district’s red light windows when I made eye contact with the woman in the pink sequin bikini. She smiled at me, waved, and carried on eating her chips. I smiled and waved back, and marched into the bar behind my friends, with the weird satisfaction that I had made the right choice in going to Europe.
So maybe we didn’t meet in the traditional sense, but a formal meet-the-parents handshake seemed somewhat inappropriate in Europe’s infamous sex capital. It was then and there that I decided, should I have another chance to travel around Europe, I wouldn’t turn it down for the world.
The deadline for study abroad applications is fast approaching, and if you have even the slightest itch for new experiences and bizarre adventures, I encourage you to look into it.
Of course, there’s more to Europe than waving to prostitutes through giant glass windows. But there was something about that experience that made me realize I simply couldn’t miss out on all the wacky, uncalled for, entirely un-American kicks that Europe has to offer. And if you want my advice, you shouldn’t miss out either.
Whether you decide to go to Europe, Asia, Australia, South America, or anywhere in between, I guarantee you’ll have experiences you never thought you’d have, meet people you never dreamed you’d meet, and get to know yourself in a way you’d never imagined. That’s what Europe gave me the first time around, and that’s why I’m going back this spring.
Don’t get me wrong – College Park is great. The University of Maryland is an amazing school. In fact, it’s so amazing that it’s giving us the opportunity to leave – to go anywhere we want in the world. It’s practically shoving this opportunity in our faces. My opinion? We’d be out of our minds not to take it.
Photo Credit: Sydney Rende