As I’m rushing through the Amsterdam airport with my entire luggage set, I begin to wonder why I packed so much. I’m headed toward customs and as I see the huge line I know I’m in the right place. Slowly but surely I reach the counter. I stand alone smiling and the customs agent says, “How are you?” I reply, “Tired and hungry.”
I race to catch my connecting flight to Hungary and when I reach the gate, I’m out of breath, a young 16 year old girl feeling all alone, but excited to meet new Hungarians flying back to the same incredible little country that I call my second home.
I finally land; ready to begin my European journey. I feel liberated of all stress and ready to grasp all the life changing moments that will come my way. Everytime I fly to Europe it is a different experience. I stay with relatives who give me their cultural perspective and help me understand the differences between America and Europe. I’ve come to understand that despite many similarities, the culture and atmosphere have proven to be the complete opposite of what I am used to in Oceanside. Simply put, the big things here are taken as small things in Europe. Take for example, the false belief that the casual attitude regarding alcohol in Europe causes young adults to be alcoholics. It is interesting to note that the drinking age is 18 and in America it’s 21. In my experience, teens in the US engage in rebellious binge drinking and promiscuous behavior while using alcohol. However, young Europeans tend not to use alcohol to pressure their peers or to impress them. In Europe, the seemingly casual attitude serves to alleviate the temptation and allows teens to actually enjoy their childhood.
During the lengthy drive back to my Godfather’s home, we talk about how school has been, my parents, and what I plan on doing while I stay. Over the years I have perfected the Hungarian language, which was a tremendous struggle for a California girl, but now my hard work has paid off. The Hungarian is pouring out because I’m so thrilled that I can actually speak it fluently and continuously for months, rather than in little sentences every now and then.
We reach the driveway and drag my luggage up to their apartment, I sit on the couch and the next thing you know I’m already asleep. The next morning I wake and begin my long shift at my Uncle’s restaurant in the mall. As the days goes by I work with my cousins and speak to other travelers. Working from 6 a.m. till 10 p.m. is tiring. Standing for many hours, taking orders and serving food gets incredibly hectic. Being the cashier is always the best part of the job, but first just getting to know the currency being used was very tough. I felt as if I would never be able to do it right. I got frustrated with my self and felt terrible when I did something wrong.
The restaurant allows me to meet new people from all different walks of life. Communicating with customers has helped me foster an abundance of tolerance and patience necessary for successful traveling. I’m grateful for many more experiences that I will undoubtedly share, if I am able to fulfill my dream of studying abroad.
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