Beauty in Europe - My Family Travels

Taking a step toward the edge, a cold rush of wind blew my hair around my face as I gazed down the mountain, overlooking the small towns and the rivers.  

I was seeing a new world. With a quick catch of breath, I had the most life changing revelation of how big the world was, and how small I was in comparison. I became merely a cloud in the sky, a drop of rain in a storm. It didn’t cause any feeling of insignificance, but a feeling of belonging to a world that was so extremely beautiful and amazing.   It was the most incredible feeling to look down at the world below. I had no idea how the world could look from that high up. To get the realization of how small I really am, and how much more there is to the world than the neighborhood I live in. I was on top of Mount Pilatus in Switzerland as part of a sixteen day exchange program through EF Tours that included Switzerland, Austria, Lichtenstein, with most of the time spent in Germany. Being in Europe, especially on top of that mountain, gave me a feeling I would never forget. Can you believe I almost missed it?   About a month before leaving for my trip to Europe, I panicked. I wanted to cancel my trip. I had never been away from my mom for very long, and I was going to a completely different country without her. My family is from Germany, and I had always looked forward to going there with my mom. Now I was going to do it on my own instead.

Even though Mount Pilatus was the most memorable part of the trip for me, I cherished every day I spent in Germany. With old buildings and amazing accents, pretzels around every corner, fresh meat and cheese sandwiches whenever you turned around, the sights and scents of Germany made it a breath taking place to visit. The monumental change in surroundings has forever changed me. The history especially fascinated me. The castles, the paintings and the ancient churches were just a small part of this incredible experience. The people welcomed us with open arms, even though they could tell we were part of a tour group from America. We had this idea that the Germans would have a stigma in their minds as to how Americans were, but everyone wanted to talk to us and be a part of what we were doing. Another great discovery was that almost everyone spoke English. I barely used the German I had learned in school the previous two years.

We spent about the last third of our trip staying with our host families in Oberndorf, Germany. I was given the opportunity to see a side of Germany that I felt was hidden from me on the first ten days of my trip. I became a part of the “Jaud” family. I had new parents and four sisters, including Bianca, who had previously spent two weeks at my home as part of the exchange program.  Bianca came to be one of my best friends, and I loved being able to go with her to the places she and her other friends frequented. I felt a new found freedom while also feeling completely safe in my surroundings.

This excursion was the most moving experience of my life. I’m already planning my next trip back to Europe. I left a part of my heart there and am looking forward to seeing my second family and my mountain…maybe together this time!

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