ONCE THOUGHT, NOW SEE An Essay by Lydia Middleton, Imperial Missouri It was, no doubt, an enthusiastic gesture – everyone on the bus would agree. However, the hand that was waving at our delegation as it pulled up to the Holiday Inn Amsterdam Schipol on this June Sunday, was clearly less than welcoming. But, given the ordeal we had been through just to get this far, we all had a good laugh about “the gesture”. Not a bad deal considering the “equipment problem” resulting in a twelve hour Houston layover. Adding insult to the injury of an eight hour flight was every teen’s nightmare of assigned seating. Some chaperone’s idea of a joke, I’m sure. Nonetheless, unscathed and undeterred; our delegation had arrived! The summer of 2009, held my chance to achieve a personal goal and travel to Europe with a People to People Student Ambassador delegation. Over the course of the next three weeks we traveled through the Netherlands, Belgium, France, England, Wales, and Ireland. The experience was deeply transforming and has unexpectedly inspired me to pursue a degree in history. My summer adventure introduced me to some great new friends, unforgettable cultures, and a new passion for understanding and appreciating the past. Paris was beautiful. In every direction were white stone buildings, chic roadside cafes, and every kind of shop imaginable; from cheap tourist traps to exquisite high-end jewelry stores. A person could spend an entire day just peering over the top of the Eiffel Tower, and a month viewing priceless treasures in The Louvre. Unfortunately, we had one day to do both and tour Notre Dame Cathedral. Nevertheless, our one day in Paris was truly unforgettable, highlighted by the fact that all forty-four members of our group were becoming fast friends. (OK, so assigned seating is a good thing.) The next few days brought us north to Caen and Normandy and were, by far, the most influential and moving places of our journey. These were hallowed places where men fought and died. Seeing the craters where bombs dropped, thousands upon thousands of uniform white crosses in seemingly never ending lines are images not easily forgotten. Although not the most uplifting, our days visiting the sites of D-Day were, oddly, my favorite. Everyday revealed places and things that altered the course of history. Everything was new, nothing was ordinary, and nothing would ever be the same for me. Seeing new parts of the world, if even just a small portion of it, changes your perspective; and changes you. These experiences sparked a new-found passion for history that I just couldn’t seem to shake despite my stubborn determination toward a career in Medicine. Throughout high school, until this trip, it seemed obvious that I was going to be a doctor. I worked hard to make the grades. I love biology and human anatomy, and counted myself one of the lucky few who knew where their future was leading. This trip to Europe has profoundly changed me as well as my future. I’ve learned that passion, not expectation, should guide our decisions. Interests can change despite what we think we know, however, knowing this should not make us any less resolute. In fact, I see now that, ironically, resolution without a willingness to change can lead to one’s downfall as easily as it can lead to success. Why resolve to do something just for the sake of resolution? For a long time I thought I was a person who knew where they were going, but now I see that there can be satisfaction in having to figure it out.
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