No pictures, so your tiny attention spans can just click the x now.
As a verbose child growing up, when I was asked, “How was your day?” I would answer, “Fine.” When asked, “So, what did you do today?” I’d say, “Nothing” or “Nothing worth mentioning.” Sure it may have been irritating but that still sounds about right to me. I’ve always disliked it when people ask me what I think of a movie within five minutes of it ending. Give me some time to let it sink in.
However, I’m mentally preparing for my return to campus and home, where I will face the equivalent question of “So, how was study abroad?” in which case I would want to shoot back “So, how’s it been here since New Years?” Neither question is really answerable – people will just answer “Uhhhhh,” “Good,” maybe “Great” even, or perhaps make a list of things that happened. If I answered, “Life changing” or “An experience of a lifetime,” both of which are probably true, I still wouldn’t be able to elaborate or explain on the spot, and I’m not a fan of hackneyed sayings anyway. This penultimate post is my way of personally working out answers to the questions that I’m inevitably going to be asked.
First off, this post will not have anything negative or about the difficulties of being abroad since quite frankly no one wants to hear about it. The only thing worse than listening to someone talk about their vacation is listening to someone complain about their vacation so I’m going to stay far, far away from that. Anything nuanced I plan to save for an actual retrospective post.
Okay. Since that first question was too broad, I think I’m going to just ask myself and answer questions that are specific enough to be answerable and then hopefully that can give me ideas as to how to answer the broader questions.
Why did you do a blog and post so much?
Ideally, I would be able to keep everyone who cared updated so I wouldn’t have to repeat specific stories a bajillion times. Since that obviously didn’t/wont work, it is also a memory-commitment device where I get to relive my trip forever and it allowed me to organize and post my photos as the trip went along so that (1) I didn’t have 2,000 photos to go through at once and (2) so the photos are not buried in my computer files forever. And lastly, it allowed me to evaluate my own experience and what is important to me real-time.
Entire Trip questions
Coming home to see my friends and family after 4 months of not seeing them. 😀 I mean, having my wonderful sister visit me. I mean, having Papa visit me. I mean, yeah…You’re not going to get me to choose a specific moment, sorry.
How many times did you sweat through shirts?
Very astute question. This was a common theme throughout the whole trip, where something would happen and I would get super nervous and sweat through a shirt. It probably happened every third day while travelling for some reason or another – including every time I approached a border by car, when the car got pulled over, every time I thought I lost my phone/wallet/camera/passport, when I actually lost my wallet, when I got lost and daylight was running out, on a really curvy road, when it was sunny, etc.
Lisbon, Portugal. This got super bonus points for being my first trip out of London. I was sick and tired of cold in January but decided the day-of to book a ticket to warm Portugal. I spent 4 days with good food, good location, a picture perfect itinerary, about 35-40 miles of walking around scenic stuff, and experiencing travel alone for the first time.
Most complicated trip?
The four-day Switzerland trip was almost as fun as the Lisbon trip. However, coordination with 7 other people made it more complicated than my 28-day trip through the Balkans.
Easy. Getting pulled over by the Romanian border police. Ask me for the password and you can read about it in the Things Getting Interesting post.
Where is Queen Mary?
Not quite sure why I didn’t provide a map of London earlier but here is Queen Mary.
How was school? What did you learn?
Good. I was ahead in my major, so I was able to take classes that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to take and learn new things. The classes were British Politics, London Architecture, Modern Art, and London’s Museums. I passed every class, and I would like to highlight that I received a ‘B’ in spelling on one of my typed essays since they spell words differently here. The English system (both Queen Mary and friends at Oxford) has very little class or instructional time, and quite frankly, seems halfway to home schooling since you have to learn a lot on your own.
What’s your favorite part about London?
The pubs were a nice change of pace from the provincialism that is parties on Princeton’s campus. Public transportation was really good and fascinates me. Other than that, I didn’t really make friends with any locals or British students. Socially, all of the study abroad students found the British students much less welcoming to Americans than we expected. A British student only needs to open their mouth in America to be loved. I was on campus so little anyway (and sleeping when I was) that I really didn’t feel the need to push myself out of the study abroad cocoon.
Did you think London was the right choice?
Given that it had to be English speaking, I chose London basically because there is more stuff to do than in Ireland, Australia, etc. Yep, right choice. Same reason I chose Queen Mary over, say, Oxford and Cambridge, which are in the middle of nowhere.
Where did you go?
Short answer. Here is the map of where I went.
3 way tie. There was a Persian place around the corner that I went to every week and Persian is my favorite food. Bring me saffron rice and I will love you forever. Well-done and well-seasoned lamb chops at Mapo in Gjirokaster, Albania was my favorite individual meal. Then, the gelato, chocolate crepes sundae in Venice with Julie was stuff of myth. Honorable mentions go to the 3ish pound meat extravaganza sampler plate in Mostar, BIH and Maxibon – the Nestle Drumstick-equivalent in Madrid, Spain.
I need to split the favorite destinations into three categories and even then can only narrow it down to five in each. Evidently, after making this list, it seems that I like cityscapes the most, especially places without other tourists. Most of these places were small towns that I hadn’t heard of before that interacted with their idiosyncratic environments.
Most beautiful place?
- Gjirokaster, Albania
- Benyalbufar, Mallorca, Spain (a stand in for Sa Calobra and Cap de Formentor as well)
- Burano, Italy
- Grindelwald, Switzerland
- Kotor Bay, Montenegro.
Favorite natural destinations?
- Scokjan Caves, Slovenia
- Belogradchik, Bulgaria
- Ksamil, Albania
- Tara Canyon, Montenegro
Favorite man-made destinations?
- Quinta de Regaleira in Sintra, Portugal
- Plaza de Espana, Sevilla, Spain
- City Walls in Dubrovnik, Croatia
- Estádio José Alvalade, Lisbon, Portugal
- Everything along the Thames, London (gotta get at least one UK thing in here)
Best sporting event?
The West Ham-Everton thriller that went to extra time and PKs. Go Hammers.
Most Curvy Road?
Sa Calobra (Mallorca, Spain)
Hardest roads to drive?
Sveti Jure (Makarska, Croatia)
Veliki Štuoc, Montenegro
Most scenic road? – 2-way tie
SH8 (Albanian Riviera)
Cap de Formentor (Mallorca, Spain)
Albania and Bulgaria.
Should I study abroad?