I flew into Boston last night around 6pm. I was in bed by 8pm and didn't wake up until 10am. This is the epitome of jet lag. James and I just spent two weeks gallivanting around Europe and we couldn't be more exhausted now! Our first eight days were spent in on a tour of southern Ireland, followed by five days in Paris. We saw two separate aspects of touring, which were partaking in a tour and "doing your own thing". We were on a tour in Ireland, which was helpful since we were visiting more than one area and our accommodations were already taken care of. The downside however was that everything was planned on a schedule that we had to follow everyday. We did cover plenty of the southern area of Ireland and in all I think we were satisfied with the tour. One thing I would recommend to couples taking a tour like this is to stay in the B&Bs rather than the hostels if it is an option! It is more expensive, but we saved money because we didn't have to buy breakfast in the morning because all we were served was toast like in the hostels. Instead we received a full Irish breakfast everyday. Plus, B&Bs are a staple of Ireland and it really is part of the experience in the country to stay in them. The interesting thing though was that each B&B was different. Some were like hotels with key cards, some were only a slight upgrade from a hostel, and some were true people who would sit and have tea with you and you'd both share stories of your experiences. Another reasons this is a good option for couples is that in the hostels it is not always seen as kosher if you sleep in the same bed as your boyfriend/girlfriend (not to mention the bed may not be big enough for the both of you), and it is something you need to respect and accept. I know I got plenty more rest in the B&Bs than I would have in the hostels too, which could only benefit me for the next leg of the tour the next day.
We saw the other side of touring in Paris, where we stayed in an apartment and were able to choose what we wanted to do everyday. Granted this was easier because we were staying in the same city, but it was refreshing to not be on an itinerary every day. I absolutely loved Paris, and the fact that we were there for Christmas only made it better! Paris was my first test with a country where I didn't speak the language, and while there were I few times I fumbled with words, we were able to navigate Paris without any major faux pas. Our major test was in the bouchiere where the butcher was trying to tell us how long to cook the pork we bought and all I could ascertain was something dealing with 1h15 (because he wrote that down for us). James thought he meant come back at 1:15 to have it cooked there, and I was pretty sure that wasn't what he meant (mostly because it was 3pm). I struggled over "cuission" (I think that's how it's spelled) our whole walk back to the apartment when I realize he meant to cook it for an hour and fifteen minutes. We were able to navigate the Metro though without getting lost once, which I was quite proud about! We even figured out how to get to Versailles via public transportation which saved us plenty of money. I enjoyed these trips because they were my first explorations of Europe without the worry of papers and tests and other schoolwork hanging over my head while I was on them. It felt good to be a tourist again (as bad as that may sound). I am happy to be back in Boston and back amongst my friends but it is strange to not be returning to Mason Place in South Kensington anytime soon. Back in my single room of my apartment I've found that I miss the noise of living with ten people sometimes. I mean I wouldn't voluntarily go back to living with ten, but I do miss having someone to talk to over breakfast and when I need a distraction from schoolwork. I think I'll appreciate having a single when I have to write a paper this semester, but I will miss acting stupid and silly with my flat mates. I learned a lot about myself on this trip and I have grown from this experience. I know I don't have to rely on James for my strength and that I am a strong person for myself and others when they need it. I learned I can navigate unfamiliar cities and not get lost once. I grew knowing that it is important to act like a kid sometimes to see that living life is the most important thing, but that maturity is not something to be scared or embarrassed about because it has a lot of wisdom to offer as well. I realize that my country's leaders' choices will affect the way I am seen abroad, which is one of the most important reasons we need to vote for those who will represent our country to other nations. I also realized that by communicating with people from other countries on this program I was able to show them that not everyone in the United States shares the opinions and beliefs of their leaders. This was an experience I won't soon forget and I will be indebted to for the rest of my life. I'd recommend study abroad to anyone who is interested in doing it, whether or not they have apprehensions. I think I am an example of how one can overcome apprehensions and experience amazing things on their study abroad stay. The benefits of study abroad far outweigh the fears of going into an unknown country.