Arts people are Citizens of the World, many viewing travel as more than just a vacation. For the next few weeks, WOA blog will be featuring several guest blog posts by Arts alumni, faculty, staff or students about how travel gave them a new perspective.
As a Political Science student specializing in European Union politics, planning my next study abroad experience is what keeps me sane during those late night paper crunches. After studying back-to-back summers in France to complete my French Language and Literature Minor, I decided to take the train into Central Europe in 2015. With a two and a half month study adventure touring me through six different countries, all while completing three university courses, I had plenty of excitement to fuel my daydreams of escaping Edmonton.
After couch surfing from England to France with friends and family, I started the academic portion of my summer with the European Union Study Tour and Internship Program. Offering credits in a senior level Political Science course, this three-week intensive was the definition of learning outside of the classroom. In the company of 50 other Canadian students from the University of Victoria to Dalhousie, I listened to lectures and heard about the daily work routines of diplomats and non-profits alike. Travelling through the European Union cores in Brussels, Frankfurt, The Hague and Luxembourg opened the door for future internship placements upon graduation. At the same time, it opened my eyes for a career in diplomacy back in Alberta. As the sole participant from the Prairies, I offered an insider perspective on the ever-important Alberta Energy Sector.
My head filled with diplomatic ramble from Brussels’ elite, I traded my pumps for converse sneakers in the next leg of my journey. Learning grammar by day and living as a Berliner by night (and sometimes early morning…), my six weeks in Germany’s capital could not have been more enlightening. Although known for their punctuality and organization, Berliners should receive just as much credit for embracing all that their city has to offer. Be it supporting an independent coffee spot or showing a public garden some love, the locals have crafted Berlin into an oasis of acceptance. While a piece of my heart remains overseas, I have been making an effort to take some of those lifestyle choices home to Canada.
Who wants to be that one friend who stayed in to catch up on sleep rather that going to that amaaaazing place and doing that unforgettable thing?
Too often I see my fellow wanderlusting peers return to our home and native land only to moan for the next weeks, months or years about how amazing the world is and how boring it is to live in “Deadmonton.” I am no exception. My friends will all too soon tire of hearing the familiar ring of “This one time, in Europe…” which is my classic introduction to any tale that will go on and on to tell how amazing life is overseas.
But my whirlwind of a summer did not gain all of its excitement simply because I was travelling new places. It was rather the fact that I was experiencing new things. Or rather, that I was willing to do so. Between rooftop open air cinemas and swimming pools situated in rivers, I still think there is a never a dull moment to be had in Berlin. But guess what? Tourists have the same eye opening, thrilling experiences in Edmonton. And so does every other traveller in every other city.
When we travel, I find that my fellow classmates and I embody a carpe diem attitude more than ever. Because who wants to be that one friend who stayed in to catch up on sleep rather that going to that amaaaazing place and doing that unforgettable thing? In Europe, I turn into a “Yes Woman” in order to never miss those once-in-a-lifetime experiences my travel friends and I will reminisce on for years to come.
Then, we all return to our hometowns, only too complacent to melt back into old routines and norms. But why? Would Euro2015 have been as memorable had I opted to binge watch Orange is the New Black or refuse to go out and explore while Game of Thrones was streaming? Probably not. Gaining unlimited access to WiFi should not mean losing our “you only live once” attitude. Having the same four walls surrounding us as we fall asleep each night does not force us to live each new day in our city like the previous one.
As I watched performers from the iconic hill in Gallagher Park during the opening night of the 2015 Edmonton Folk Fest, I smiled as I reminisced on a familiar music scene I experienced my first night in Brussels. While in Europe, I constantly wished that my hometown would organize similar events so that I could share those “unique, European cultural experiences” with my Canadian friends. Guess what: we do.