For those of you who have been following my time in Brussels from the beginning, you’ll know what a rollercoaster of a trip I’ve had. Through the high and low moments, this has been one of the greatest decisions I’ve made in my entire college career.
I had been full of doubts before I hopped on the plane to Brussels. The process of getting a visa was particularly hard and stressful for me, I worried about whether I’d have enough money to survive all four months, I wondered if I’d be able to enjoy myself without my friends, and so on. It felt surreal walking away from my parents and siblings, heading towards my gate and a new adventure. It wasn’t until I touched down in Brussels that I could fully grasp the fact that I’d just moved to a whole new country.
I can say for a fact that this feeling comes back to you as you head home to the States.
It almost felt like I was going on another short trip before returning to my student apartment and going to classes and work. The fact that I won’t be coming back– at least not yet– is still a shock to me. The idea of not seeing all my new friends on a day to day basis is unthinkable. The concept of no longer walking around the corner to Carrefour for a baguette or catching the 95 bus to Grand Place is unfathomable. Still, I must get used to the fact that these daily routines will once again be changing.
I was reflecting on my time here the other night as I was packing my bags and I felt sad that I spent a chunk of my time here being negative, comparing Brussels to back home and other cities in Europe, not just enjoying the fact that I was there. It was part of the adjustment process, I know, but I felt like I had wasted precious time that could have been spent exploring, learning and appreciating where I was.
Even then, I’m still ridiculously proud when I look back at this trip and what I did. I went to school in another country. I did an internship, partially in French, with an organization contracted by the European Commission and will continue to be involved beyond my trip. I increased the number of countries I’ve been to from two to eleven. All of this in just four months.
I encourage everyone who is thinking about or heading out for study abroad to live in the moment and appreciate every second. Our program coordinator once said to me, “Even a bad day, is still a bad day in Brussels!” At the time, I brushed this comment aside but I wish I would’ve taken it to heart. My worst days while in Brussels were still days I was abroad, doing things that I wouldn’t have even thought of this time last year. I feel proud when I think about how far I’ve come and I know that this trip was just the catalyst for more travel, fun, and adventures in the near future.
There are so many parts of Brussels, through souvenirs, pictures and stories, that I will bring back with me to Philadelphia. I am sad to go, but I know that I will be back and that when I return, it will feel like coming home.