Photography by Brianne Lee

Photography by Brianne Lee

A Final Farewell

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ciao in Italian is both a greeting and a goodbye. It seems only fitting. It feels as if just yesterday I was packing up my suitcase, saying goodbye to my family and boarding a plane bound to this unknown, foreign land that has now completely captivated my heart.
Fast-forward four months: as I write this, it is June 15 and I am watching the city that I’ve grown to love get smaller and smaller as my plane takes off. There are tears rolling down my face as I say goodbye to what was, of course, “the best four months of my life.”

Any one of those worn-out clich├ęs, the ones so often used to describe the life-changing nature of one’s time abroad and the inevitable, yet bitter-sweet departure, would be fitting for this final post. For in many ways, I don’t think I can really put this whole experience into my own words yet, let alone comprehend the enormous effects it has had on me. That’s not to say that I’m unhappy to be journeying back to the States, quite the opposite. For while being abroad is wonderful, an essential aspect of this whole ordeal is coming home, reconnecting with loved ones, and reflecting on time spent gallivanting around Europe.

While thinking about all of my experiences these past four months, I am reminded of a quote from Mr. Bilbo Baggins: “It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to…” I think it’s safe to say that in this sense I failed at keeping my feet while abroad, and I couldn’t be happier for it. From Santorini, Paris and Prague, to Dublin, Edinburgh and Zurich, as well as the countless other amazing cities I got ‘swept off to’ this year, there was almost never a plan, but almost every trip ended up being full of ridiculous adventure and laughter… the way trips should be.
It may take a while to fully understand the ways in which my time abroad changed me; however, I can say with absolute certainty that these past four months have been absolutely extraordinary, and I plan on jumping at the next opportunity to get back to Europe (or anywhere really)… regardless of the fact that I have no idea where I’d get swept off to thereafter.

Study abroad is one of those rare life experiences that truly meets every expectation associated with it. Incredibly, it really is life changing. I got everything I ever could have hoped for, not in the way I planned, but on a surprising and more rewarding scale. I love traveling and embracing other aspects of the world, but physically living in a foreign country gave me insight in reverse: I now appreciate home more than ever.

So all I have left to say is thank you. Thank you study abroad for opening my eyes to see that the world is so much bigger than I ever could have imagined. For helping me grow as a person and get over my fear of asking strangers for directions. For opening my heart to more easily accept other people, and love the ones back home even more. For introducing me to the most amazing friends I am so blessed to have met. For allowing me to endlessly indulge in carbs, wine and gelato galore. For making me realize that I truly don’t need most of what I have to live happily. For helping me travel to places I've only ever dreamed of. But most of all, thank you for giving me the world. My life has been forever changed and I could not be happier.

To my family, friends, and anyone who has been following this blog these past four months, a simple thank you just doesn’t feel like enough. There is no easy way to express the amount of appreciation and thankfulness I have in my heart. But without your constant love, encouragement and support, I would not be where I am today. Grazie millie!

The Lee Family in Europe: Part 3

Monday, June 16, 2014

The last stop on the Lee family adventure abroad was a place very special to me: Florence. 

I had the pleasure of playing tour guide for four magnificent days. I walked them through the city, showing them where I went to school, the well-known sights, my favorite places and restaurants and of course to all the best gelato shops.

Wanting to get a taste of the Tuscan countryside, we booked a wine tasting tour in the Chianti region and spent a full day exploring two local wineries, learning about the wine making process, and enjoyed tasting several wines with the owner of one the wineries.

Coming back to Florence was the perfect way to end our trip as well as my four months abroad. Leaving this city was harder than I ever expected it to be, but I know it’s not goodbye for good.

So now, after 24 hours travel, being surprised by my best friend at the airport, getting to hug my dog and sleeping in my own bed…

there is truly no place like home. 

The Lee Family in Europe: Part 2

Saturday, June 14, 2014

One of our favorite parts of the trip was stop number two: Lake Como. We absolutely fell in love with this place. There is something undeniably charming about a grand, lazy lake, winding around rolling green hills dotted with tiny villages painted in pastel, with the occasional elegant villa tucked around the bend.

Oh, and to make matters better, George Lucas also filmed scenes from Star Wars here. 

Ever since I saw the scene in Episode II: Attack of the Clones where Anakin and Padme get married, I thought a place that beautiful couldn’t really exist in real life, that it must be graphics or camera trickery to make a place look so out of this world. But after spending the afternoon touring the villa, I was blown away by the true beauty of it all and could easily understand why this particular location was chosen for the famed Star Wars scene.

Lake Como is the ideal trip if you’re looking for some relaxation. We greatly enjoyed sleeping in a bit, ate breakfast on our apartment balcony overlooking the lake, took afternoon strolls through the town, enjoyed drinks in the many cafes that line the lake, relaxed by the water while watching boats sail by, and finished off each evening with a late dinner overlooking the lake that was glistening with reflections from the town lights.

May the force be with you,

The Lee Family in Europe: Part 1

Friday, June 13, 2014

Almost exactly a week ago, I flew from Paris to Zurich, Switzerland where I waited patiently for my family to arrive. I could barely contain my excitement and tears of joy when I finally saw their smiling faces rushing towards me after four months of being apart!

With 10 days of travel to fill, we decided to split it into three parts: Zurich, Lake Como and Florence.

After checking into our hotel, taking in our balcony views, and freshening up, we set off towards the Lake Zurich, a remarkable sight with snow-capped mountains in the background. Filled with people walking, biking, swimming and basking in the sun, this area reminded me quite a bit of the Lake Calhoun area in Minneapolis…minus the mountainous background of course! We sat and enjoyed cool drinks by the water while catching up on life.

That afternoon, as well as the majority of our remaining days in Zurich, we continued exploring all that this Swiss city had to offer. If there was one or two words to describe Zurich, it would be clean…and expensive. 

We discovered several 13th century church steeples with golden clock faces towering over the city, and narrow winding, cobblestoned streets.

We stumbled upon wonderful street music, watches and designer clothing stores galore, quaint lakeside restaurants and cafes, and of course an abundance of delicious Swiss chocolate!

Our time in Zurich went quickly, but was filled some much-needed, quality family time!

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