It all starts here…

How did I even get here?

I’m currently sitting in the Ostello Archi Rossi in Florence, Italy attempting to summarise the rollercoaster of emotions that have accompanied my exchange preparations over the past twelve or so months (it’s not easy!). I’m still three weeks away from commencing my orientation program at Kedge Business School, Bordeaux Campus (France) and five weeks from actually undertaking any classes, and yet I’ve already learnt so many invaluable lessons.

Exploring in London

I’ve been travelling for just over two weeks now with two of my closest friends; Brooke, one of my best mates from high school and Siobhan, a UTS student that I met because she is also undertaking her exchange at Kedge Business School. To cut a long story short, both myself and exchange were two mutual factors we all had in common. Combine that with strikingly similar destination wish-lists and voila, here we are backpacking together, The Three Amigos Take Europe (again, how did I even get here?). Months before even leaving home, our committment to exchange had extended all three of us the opportunity to make great new friends. Going back to our travel plans I can confidently say that within about 72 hours of having landed in beautiful London, I felt completely content and entirely assured that this is exactly where I should be and exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. Our combined list of travel destinations spans seven countries (United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Switzerland and Germany) and ranges between 5-7 weeks.We’ve been doing a combination of fast-paced sightseeing, indulging in local foods, window shopping, people watching and lots of aimless awe-inspired wandering as well. Europe has been an absolute treat so far. Undoubtedly, I harboured a few (okay fine, a lot) of doubts before our departure, but the absolute joy of being in new and lively places completely eradicates all the worries you have. Travelling can be challenging, but we’ve come to realise that the hiccups don’t kill you, and you honestly just do whatever it is you have to do to push through it.

Trafalgar Square, London

Some highlights of my trip so far include:

  • going up the London Eye 
  • climbing the Arc du Triomphe to see the view of Paris 
  • trying snails in Paris
  • parasailing over the beach in Nice
  • visiting (and gambling a massive 10€) at the Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco
  • watching the Magic Fountain Show at the Fountain of Montjuic in Barcelona 
  • the food in Italy… and the shopping!.. and the food!!!

Admirality Arch, London Pont des Arts, Paris

Unfortunately, I don’t yet have any university specific experiences to report on. I’ve found that this is the case with most exhange students studying in Europe, the semester doesn’t begin until September. However, if the degree of fun, awe and discovery I’ve experienced in a mere two weeks of exploring Europe are any indication .. it is going to be an EPIC, INCREDIBLE (AND EXHAUSTING) adventure. Travel honestly changes you! Yeah I know, the cliche is close to gag-worthy, but after two weeks spent navigating language barriers, eating unimaginably good foreign cuisines, and quite literally getting completely lost in the underground Metro systems of unfamiliar cities, I can finally recognise and appreciate first-hand all of the travel perks the well-travelled bunch always ramble on about. I’ve already learned that nothing quite compares to the insights you acquire from contesting the barriers of your comfort zone. If I can vouch for this so early on in my exchange journey, I can’t imagine what the rest of the semester will bring.

Until next time, 

Stephanie Symons. 

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