My biggest suggestion is to branch out. Dive into the people who are part of the program that you did not know before. I found the most growth in stepping away from the people I knew coming into the trip and meeting those I didn’t. Once you make that jump, new relationships will grow from the willingness to meet new people, creating a family feeling amongst everyone in the program. It just takes that first leap of faith to create the magic of the community you will get as the program progresses.
I’m always reminded of a trip a took with a new friend, Mimi. While it could be counted as a disaster, looking back it has turned out to be one of our favorite and possibly the funniest memories from the trip. It is what we like to call a "Series of Unfortunate Events: Venice Edition".
We had decided to buy a ticket to Venice thinking it was for 6 pm, but discovered it was actually 6 am. We had to leave our dorm at 4 am; no, we are not morning people. We arrived in Venice around ten and went on a walk to find our hostel. Four hours later - with all our luggage, in 100-degree weather - we finally found the hostel!
The “lobby”, which consisted of an incredibly old couch, only one small blacklight as lighting, and lacked wifi, was occupied by a woman working reception. We asked, “is this Youth Venice Palace?”, to which she didn’t have an answer to, as it was her first day. We couldn’t help but think - you don’t know where you work? Eventually, a man walked in to help; he spoke no English and we don’t speak Italian, an hour later we were finally checked in.
Before walking into the room, they mentioned it needed to be cleaned. “Cleaning” meant giving the room a quick spray of Lysol, and leaving us to it. We found hair and tooth pics everywhere. At that point, Mimi and I were dying of laughter at the absolutely ridiculous situation we were in. We went out to dinner (during which we got ripped off, paying an extra 30 Euros each for our meal), after returning to the hostel to sleep our friends finally arrived waking us up, and I spent the rest of the night with food poisoning. I think I managed to get about 10 minutes of sleep.
While our visit to Venice was a disaster, it ended up being a blessing and a lesson to learn from. I realized traveling comes with many bumps and bruises, but keeping your head up and pushing on can show you that you’re stronger and more positive than you think. Now, Mimi and I look back and laugh about all of the absurd things that happened during that trip, and admire the fact that we were able to smile through it all, taking the unfortunate events as they came. I can say I will forever keep that day in my memory. Thank you Venice.
This was a difficult question for me to answer when deciding on a program, it all depends on what you want to get out of the trip. For me specifically, I had always dreamed of traveling to Italy and seeing the incredible history as well as art it provided. I had seen some of it in books, but being able to see it first-hand was a completely different experience.
I recommend taking a look at the countries listed, and aligning the experiences, history, and elements each provides with the items on your travel bucket list.