My STEP project was to go on a study abroad trip to Hungary, Poland and Austria. Throughout this trip we visited historical sites and reflected on what they meant and how those events they depict affect the World today.
This trip made the World seem like a smaller place to me. These faraway lands they talk about in movies are not just made up places to me anymore. For example, I was watching an Indiana Jones movie the other day and during the map scene it showed his plane traveling to Salzburg. If I would have viewed that scene two months ago I would have thought nothing of it, but now I can associate experiences with these places and put people’s faces who I physically met to the place. It made me realize these places exist and we do share the Earth with other people from different backgrounds.
If you ask anyone who was on this trip, I went through enough experiences for a lifetime. These experiences have forever changed my life. By going through all the weird, wonderful and downright unexpected situations I have become a more responsible and mature adult. By going through these experiences, I had the opportunity to learn and reflect on things people do not usually get the chance to consider.
One night I decided to take some time to myself and go on walk. I made my way to the banks of the Danube River. It was a Sunday so not too many people were out so I got a perfect opportunity to be able to reflect on my travels to that point without any distractions. As I scanned the terrain high and low, I noticed a beautiful scene consisting of the moon rising above Buda Castle. It was a humbling moment for me as I thought of all the other times I have looked up at the Moon throughout my life. All the different places I have been all the different things I was going through in life but one thing remains constant, it is always the same Moon. That moment I realized no matter how different people may be we all have things in common, we all share the planet Earth. This realization brought to my attention that all our decisions influence one another no matter how indirect. We are all connected and we all have a little more in common than you think.
There I was, sitting outside of a wine bar in the swanky part of town. Enjoying certain delicacies, I cannot yet enjoy in the States. When off in the distance I heard the soft strum of a guitar and the faint whisper of someone singing. Not thinking anything of it, I went back to engaging in casual conversation with my colleagues. A few seconds past and the music grew louder and the voice became more distinct. Until there they were, the phantom performers, who were just a chime in the wind a mere moment ago were standing there in all their glory proudly belting out their song and playing their instruments. Now this seems innocent enough you may say, just a good ole’ mom and pop street performance to generate some quick revenue. They were in their mid-fifties, had olive-brown skin and seemed a little rough around the edges. If you were from these parts you could have quickly identified them as members of the Roma community. These people get a bad rep around these parts for their affinity for pickpocketing and cursing individuals. This pair did not want to disappoint. At the end of their ballad the male counterpart held out an empty coffee cup which he was utilizing as a “tip” jar. Feeling in the generous mood, I gave him 400 forrentz, which is equivalent to about $1.40 in America but is enough to buy a generous meal there. Having felt like I had fulfilled my role as a gracious audience member I was prepared to go our separate ways. Then in a shocking twist the other member of the band began to approach me speaking some unknown language. Knowing enough Hungarian I was able to decipher that she was telling me she was a “gypsy” and wanted to tell my fortune. Being the superstitious guy I am, I wanted no part in this. As she continued speaking the prophecy took a turn for the worst and after some research I found out that I had been cursed by this once fun loving band. Being in utter disbelief I abandoned all responsibilities and sought asylum inside with the rest of my group. At the door, I turned around to look my hexer in the eye one last time. I was shocked to see that they had disappeared as quickly as they had entered the scene. After this enlightening experience, I learned it is okay to walk away from a situation. One doesn’t have to see how it ends, if you feel uncomfortable get out of their before you get cursed.
In Europe, they have a fantastic chain of stores, known as “Spar”. These stores have an impressive juice aisle which contain the same amount of wonderment as one would experience stepping into “Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory”. One day my friend and I were feeling especially adventurous and decided to randomly pick out a juice to try, or what we thought was juice. The bottle was long, slender and had an innocent enough looking bear mascot. It was a bright color orange which was somewhat inviting as it reminded us of a warm summer day in Midwest Ohio. We purchased the “juice” and headed outside to enjoy our bounty. Before we cracked the seal and took a swig, we gave the bottle one last look. “SZÖRP”, in all caps was displayed across the bottle. I volunteered to sample the mystery juice first. I was particularly parched and decided this would be the perfect quencher. I threw the bottle back and took a hearty swig. In all my years on this Earth, I have never experienced something quite that heinous. Throughout childhood I had taken many cough syrups and other disturbing liquid medicines but none of them came close to this abomination. Imagine someone made a concoction of maple syrup, tomato soup and pop tart filling. Barely managing to keep it down, I past it to my friend who couldn’t understand my distain for this sinister sauce. He, feeling extra brave, decided to try and one up me by giving it a little chug. Nothing could have prepared us for what happened next. Almost like a knee jerk reaction he began to frantically look for a trash can. Luckily, there was one right beside us and he was able to empty his stomach contents into a trash can rather than the floor. After the initial shock was over, we realized the true gravity of our situation. Sometime between my friend vomiting and myself crying from laughter, one of the largest humans I have seen to this day, who happened to be the security guard, made his way over to us. He quickly realized we did not speak Hungarian and we quickly realized he did not speak English, we were then physically removed from the premises. This fantastic tale taught me to not take things for their face value and always do research before you commit to something. To tie up any loose ends, “SZÖRP” directly translates into, you guessed it, syrup in English. That particular drink was a heavily concentrated fruit syrup which is supposed to be mixed with carbonated water and is supposed to be enough syrup to last for 6 months.
All of these lessons will play a critical role throughout my life. By realizing that everyone must share the Earth I can make conscious decisions in my career to better the World as a whole and make it a better place for everyone. By learning when to walk away I can be a better student, peer and overall better person. Finally, by learning to do your research, I can make better decision in my life that will better myself and the people around me. Going into this trip I didn’t know what I was going to get out of it, but it is safe to say I got a lot more than I bargained for.
There is not a doubt in my mind that I am a different person after coming back from Europe. I think and act in very different ways. I learned that people are far more similar to one another than they are different. After conversing and interacting directly with so many different people from so many different countries, I discovered that no matter what language you speak, what ethnicity you are, you have a lot in common with the person next to you. No matter where you go on this Earth people are going through the same problems and experiencing the same things. No matter where you go people find the same things enjoyable no matter how different you are, good food, good music, and overall just a good time can always bring a smile to someone’s face no matter where they are from. This realization has sculpted a new way of thinking for me. I now think about how my actions can affect the global community. Everything is now relative to not just Columbus, Ohio or the United States but the entire World.