“Miss? Time to wake up! We will be landing shortly!” I groggily opened my eyes to find a tall, Lufthansa airline stewardess standing beside me. Confused, I quickly reacquainted myself with my surroundings; I was on a large 747 Lufthansa airplane, on my way to begin a 10-day excursion through Europe with a group of 20 other high school students, starting in Barcelona, Spain and ending in Rome, Italy. My sophomore year at Haverford High School had just ended, and I was ecstatic to begin my summer vacation in Europe!
As I gazed out the window, my eyes fell upon a breathtaking sight: the German Alps. I frantically ruffled through my carry-on bag in search of my camera. Shortly after snapping a few photographs, the Captain announced that we would be landing in Barcelona, Spain momentarily. “Let the fun begin,” I thought.
As I stepped off the plane, my world suddenly changed. I could no longer navigate with ease. I couldn’t even locate the bathroom on my own. My first day in Barcelona was frightening and frustrating. I was no longer ecstatic to be in Europe, as I had been prior to take-off from Philadelphia; I was homesick and wanted to hop on the next flight back to the familiar streets of Havertown, Pennsylvania. I was overwhelmed by the realization that I could not easily communicate with the Spanish people, I felt uneasy about trying unfamiliar cuisines, and I was so fatigued that I could not appreciate the beauty and charm of one of the most unique, artistic cities in the world.
However, my spirits rose as the trip progressed through France, Monaco, and Italy. I felt more relaxed and began enjoying the experience. I adapted and learned to overcome the language barriers, I was more inclined to try new dishes, I studied the intricate architecture, and I explored the ancient streets and cultures of Europe. It is an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life, and I am so thankful that I was afforded such an enlightening opportunity.
As I trekked through Europe, I taught myself a valuable lesson, a lesson that I will surely appreciate and pass on to others as I begin the transition from high school to college: I learned that one must completely break through his or her comfort zone in order to mature and learn. This is never painless or pleasant, but it is necessary in order for one to grow as a student and constructive, well-rounded member of society.
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