Semester in Europe Part One

I'm feeling the urge to travel. I thought I could make it a whole year without an international trip but I'm feeling the need for adventure. I'm also feeling the need to look up from my own life and forget about any personal issues. My friends and I have sheepishly discussed how we only have "First World Problems," as in, we get distressed when our iPhones break or we aren't feeling motivated at our office jobs anymore.

As opposed to - we're living with genocide or we can't find clean water to sustain our life. You know, problems that are a tiny bit larger than our own.

That's one side effect I love about visiting developing countries. Perspective.

But I also love just good old random adventure and I've had that in all kinds of "civilized" parts of the world too - like Europe.

When I was a junior in college, I was fortunate enough to get accepted to our college's Semester In Europe program. They take like 20 undergrads and ship them off to live in a quaint little bed and breakfast in picturesque Cambridge, England. We take classes from Cambridge University professors on history and English and we do our own independent study on a topic of our choice and take field trips around Europe. So technically it's a scholastic endeavor -- but really it's free reign to run around cool countries for three months.

That semester literally changed my life because not only did it open me up to travel/independence even more than I already was, but living every second of every day with 20 other people is ENLIGHTENING. It's like having little mirrors constantly in your face, showing you the flaws in your personality. (Sounds like fun, right?) On more than one occasion, I saw (or had) breakdowns where someone just couldn't take either someone else or themselves anymore. Which is hilarious looking back on now but it was really useful for personal growth too. And many of the friends I had on that trip are still some of my favorite friends ever. We have that sort of rapport where you can go years without talking, and fall right back into complete comfort and understanding when you see each other.

But I know you don't come to this blog for my contemplations about life and personal growth so much as you come -- for the incidents. There were several in that three month period.

One involved a frequent issue of mine - dental work. I have horrible luck with teeth. I recently had a dentist say "You have all 32 teeth! You're unique!" to which I replied "and how many of those DON'T have fillings?" Her reply:

" 8?"

Yes. I've had more fillings than I can remember, 3 roots canals (one on the WRONG TOOTH which I'll explain some other time), and my jaw isn't set right so only THREE of my teeth even touch when I chew.

That's more than you ever wanted to know about me but you can now see why I was not surprised when I arrived in England and quickly got - a toothache.

And since I have so much experience with dental work, I knew this was not a good sign. And you know where you DO NOT want to have to use dental services?


No offense, Britain, but I'd heard too many quips about the British having bad teeth that I was not pleased to need dental work right off the bat.

Fortunately, it was only a gum infection and only required drugs. But, that was one of the first things I remember happening right in Cambridge. The other favorite stories I have from that semester mostly involved the travel we did outside Cambridge.

Like the weekend 4 of us went to Spain on a whim.

We were given a couple weekends during the semester for "independent" travel - IF we got our schoolwork done first. If you've followed this blog at all, you know I have a little problem with time management occasionally. So of course I was down to the wire on this one.

I owed 5 pages of something, I don't remember if it was a journal or a paper or what, but I remember needing to rewrite it so it was legible (I'm a Lefty -- we are known for penmanship about like England is known for dentistry...) so I remember sitting ON THE FLOOR in the hotel lobby with the other three Spain-trip friends and each person is sprawled out next to their luggage, RECOPYING A PAGE BY HAND -

and the taxi is ON THE WAY to take us to the airport.

I'm forever indebted to those friends for helping me because as pathetic as all those frantically scribbled pages looked combined, it was enough for my teacher to release me for the weekend. Hallelujah!

So that began Our Crazy Spanish Adventure.

Which I'll tell you about next post :)