Erstwhile Expeditions: My First Trip Overseas

Erstwhile Expeditions is where I reflect on my past travel experiences. In my first post, I described my early travels and my preparation for my first trip overseas.

The summer of 2005 was one of the longest of my life. While the fall semester at Baylor started in mid-August, my semester at Queen Mary University of London wouldn’t start for another four weeks. Normally I would be thrilled for this extra month of summer, but the increasing anticipation of a few months abroad made it almost unbearable. I would be a junior that year, and by this time many of my friends had stopped returning home for the summer. I got my first part-time job as a restaurant hostess to pass the time and save a little money for my travels, but time still seemed to drag by.

Finally, finally, it was time for me to depart on my study abroad semester.

I couldn’t tell if I was more nervous or excited about my twelve-hour solo flight. I flew Virgin Airlines, which at the time was just starting to expand it’s market in the US. All the flight attendants and pilots were British, so upon boarding, I already felt like I was halfway there. The plane was huge — one of the largest I’ve ever flown on both before and since.

I still vividly remember my first sight of the English countryside.

It’s imprinted in my mind like a photograph. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually take a photograph. As the plane started to descend after 11 hours and thirty minutes of flying, the clouds parted and I got my first glimpse of the English countryside. I remember being so fascinated to how different it looked from America; so many curving lines and so much green as opposed to grids of brown and yellow.

I continued this fascination for the entirety of the three months that I spent in the UK. There was something wonderful in knowing that most of the buildings and landmarks I visited had been around for longer than anything in the United States. I only had a handful of classes while I was at Queen Mary, and I had Mondays and Fridays off, allowing me four-day weekends to travel and explore.

Oftentimes, I would hop on the underground and get off at a popular station and just walk. I explored much of London this way. I shared a flat with five others and quickly befriended several other Americans both in my flat and in a flat across the hall. We spent the evenings exploring our local pubs and restaurants and the weekends exploring London and all it had to offer.

Studying abroad in London was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Thinking back about my study abroad, I honestly barely remember my classes at all. What I remember most is the time spent traveling & having fun with my newfound friends. We did a lot of touristy things and took several long weekend trips.

We travelled to Edinburgh in Scotland and spent time exploring Edinburgh Castle. We spent an afternoon climbing to Arthur’s Seat. And I tried haggis for the first time (it was delicious)!

The most exciting trip for me was our long weekend in Paris! This is where I climbed to the bell towers of Notre Dame. We walked up a tiny, narrow, spiral stone staircase to come out on the top of the cathedral. It was dizzying and claustrophobic, but so worth it in the end when we could look out at the beautiful Parisian skyline.

We also visited the Eiffel Tower and climbed all the way to the windy top. We spent a day at the Louvre where I got to see the Mona Lisa along with a lot of other amazing art. We spent a day traveling to and exploring the Palace of Versailles. And I got my first taste of escargot.

We spent another weekend traveling to Madrid where we explored several art museums and beautiful gardens.

One of my favorite experiences during my study abroad was Thanksgiving. Because I shared a flat with several American students, we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving in London. We cooked a whole feast, complete with a turkey! It was a lot of fun, even though we accidentally set off the building fire alarm.

Though it was quite long ago now, I’m still grateful for the many fond memories I have from my first trip overseas during my study abroad semester. I highly recommend study abroad programs to all college students; you learn so much about yourself and the world that you just can’t learn in a classroom.

My study abroad definitely sparked an interest in travel that has continued to the present day. In the future I’ll write more about my travels since my first study abroad experience! Stay tuned for those posts, and in the meantime, let me know about your first travel experiences. Did you do a study abroad or something else?

Be sure to read the next chapter in my undergraduate travel experience, in which I studied and interned in New York City!

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    Hello! I'm Erika, a quiet girl living in the noisy city of Los Angeles with my husband Eric and my cat Cookies. I enjoy exploring new places, going on adventures, eating delicious food, and taking lots of pictures! >> Read more

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