by Julia Greider
High: The only way I can sum it up is: traveling and friends.
April was such a high month in general that the only way I can sum it up is: traveling and friends. First I went to Ireland, where I got to see three friends from Smith and spend enough time in Galway with Josie that I could really appreciate the town. Suffice to say it was fantastic – a bustling, easygoing place where I was never out of earshot of street musicians. Ireland is definitely a place to which I want to return. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that Galway offered me the first truly springlike weather of the year. Then, the last two and a half weeks of April saw me hopping all over Europe with my friend Trudy. I got pretty good at rattling off all our destinations:
London, Copenhagen, Malmö, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Venice, Barcelona, Madrid. If that sounds like a lot for two and a half weeks, it was – but I had been worried that it would be too much, and it wasn’t! We stayed longer in Copenhagen than anywhere else, as my Smith friend Anna hosted us and acted as a fantastic guide of the city’s history and restaurants (the food was amazing). She also came to Berlin with us, which was more or less where our routine for the rest of the trip began: arrive, find the hostel, get a map, go to a restaurant, make a list of destinations according to the map, wander in the evening, sleep, and visit as many of the places on our list as possible during our only full day in the city.
After conquering a few cities in this fashion, Trudy and I devised a dependable formula of sights that included a water view (river or ocean or, in the case of Venice, literally everywhere), a view from on high (usually a tower), a park, a church, and a museum. Trudy wrote our intended destinations in a handy notebook and at meals we had the satisfaction of checking off the places we had visited. Even as dazzling as all these places were in themselves, however, I know that I would have had a far less enjoyable time without all of the friends whose company throughout the month allowed me to feel at home no matter where on the continent I found myself.
Low: Missing home.
More and more lately I’ve been missing home – both Smith and Virginia. The coming of spring made me want to go sit out in the garden behind my house at Smith or ride the pony I owned in high school. Seniors are getting ready to graduate and my friends studying abroad are getting ready to head home, but I won’t be back in the States for three more months. Even as much as I’ve enjoyed being introduced to so many new places, I’m also learning the value of an intimate connection to one place, and the importance of the memories that attach to it and shade the way you experience it in the present.
Glitter: Everything became something unexpectedly glittery.
The only things Trudy and I had planned for our trip were the accommodations and the travel between cities. Other than that, we arrived in each destination with hardly any sense of what it offered. We often found ourselves on a train or plane saying, “What’s Vienna even like? Where even is it?” This may sound like a recipe for disaster, but it ended up to the contrary. Everything became something unexpectedly glittery as we perused our crisp new map and discovered that we could visit a mirror maze in Prague or the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, or when we arrived in Madrid to find that the next day was a grand holiday celebrating Spain’s victory over Napoleon and featuring a military parade of horses and marching bands. When we first set out our trip felt like a blank page in a coloring book; we had the outlines but didn’t quite know what would fill them in. And having come to the end, I can say that Europe provided some pretty fantastic crayons.
Julia Greider is a junior at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, double majoring in English and the Study of Women and Gender. She is studying abroad at the University of Exeter in England for five months. She loves reading and being outside, but there are few things she would rather do in her free time than go horseback riding!