“It’s a Small World after all.” Many recognize the phrase, or have heard the song. But the truth of such a comment only became apparent to me after my visit to Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France this summer. As a student ambassador with People to People, I paid my $6,000 and-something fee and traveled through these great nations, trading cultural quirks with the locals. But it wasn’t seeing the Coliseum or traversing the Palace of Versailles that made me love the world even more, it was the little things that made me realize that we were aren’t as different from each other as we like to make ourselves. If you go yourself, I recommend you have a scavenger hunt to the Piazza Novona in Italy, and that you weave through the narrow streets of Venice—where you truly feel the unique community which resides there. I hope that you’ll play UNO with Austrians (Austrians love UNO) on the banks of the Lake of Constance, but that you won’t find the Park Hotel in Heidi land too haunted. I hope you’ll sing the national anthem to a group of French teens after they sing theirs to you, and that you’ll eat quiche after trudging down the steps of the SacrÃ© Coeur. Watching the boys play soccer in Europe during FIFA 2010, knowing that we’d lose but trying anyway, nurtured my sense of sportsmanship. Meanwhile, seeing a dad in Austria act like he was going to leave his crying child behind made me laugh—I’ve done that to my younger cousin a few times. Helping a friend realize that the German “see you” is “TschÃ¼s” and not “cheers” encouraged us all to persevere, as well as created an inside joke that crosses an ocean. In short, my premier trip outside of the United States of America, proved to be what I’d hoped and more: something to compare my home country too, a taste of truly different backgrounds and perspectives, a whole new side of fun, and lasting friendships. Gaining a passion for watching soccer doesn’t hurt either.
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