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Carly Wraps Up Her Semester in Brussels With Her #onlyabroad Moments

Carly in front of the Sound of Music gazebo in Salzburg, Austria

Carly in front of the Sound of Music gazebo in Salzburg, Austria

How am I already writing my second blog post? Where did the time go? I never knew it was possible to feel like you’ve been in a place forever and simultaneously a millisecond. Wasn’t it yesterday that I pulled up to the SleepWell hostel in downtown Brussels, six hours late to orientation thanks to delayed flights and lost luggage? How can this be, and yet I have 1000+ new photos, 60 new friends, and an endless catalog of stories to share when I get home?

We only have nine days left and everyone on the CIEE program has been getting quite sentimental, myself included. My friend is making a video to commemorate the program, and she asked me this past weekend what I will miss most about studying abroad.

Carly Walsh with with CIEE friends in Brussels

Carly Walsh with with CIEE friends in Brussels

I had very little time to come up with an answer, so I did what I usually do in situations like this and nervously laughed into the camera. After this, I composed myself and spouted off various, inane answers. “The classes!” “My friends!” “Everything!” Needless to say, my portion of the farewell video will not be the best.

But now that I’ve had more time to think about this question, I’ve come up with two answers.

1.  Waffles, frites, beer, speculoos and chocolate. There’s no question about it – the inability to purchase these items in the United States will surely be the death of me.

This is everyone’s obvious, go-to answer, and with good reason. Belgium’s fame stems from its food and drink delicacies. My first blog post was even called “Waffles, Chocolate, Frites, and Business in Brussels,” an awkwardly accurate indication of what I find important in life.

2.  This is a not-so-obvious answer, and it isn’t very eloquent, or deep, or meaningful. It’s not some grand realization I’ve had since being abroad that will enlighten the masses to the benefits of world travel.

It’s that – simply – I don’t know.

Nyhavn (New Harbor), Copenhagen

Nyhavn (New Harbor), Copenhagen

Could it be the night I sang karaoke with my twin sister to a crowd of Danish engineering students who just happened to be Cher fans? Could it be the time I stayed up all night in Budapest to catch a 4:40 am train back to Vienna? Could it be the evening I sat so close to the stage at the London production of Billy Elliot that the fog in the pivotal dream sequence clouded my vision?

I’ve danced outside the gazebo from the Sound of Music (my favorite movie!), seen the room where Christopher Columbus asked the King and Queen of Spain to travel to new lands, eaten pretzels, bratwurst and beer in Germany, indulged in authentic macarons at Ladurée in Paris, seen the villages in France that inspired Walt Disney, watched fireworks on opening night at the second oldest amusement park in the world, taken pictures with the iAmsterdam sign, crossed Abbey Road in London, watched Madama Butterfly at the world-famous Opera House in Vienna, toured the Anne Frank House, drank coffee at Sigmund Freud’s favorite restaurant, posed with The Little Mermaid statue, eaten moules-frites in Bruges, marveled at the Alps, spent a whirlwind six hours in Prague, and much, much more.

I could miss all of these things, experiences that I will always cherish because of how special they were. Absurd, once-in-a-lifetime, #onlyabroad moments. Moments I can talk about when I point to a map, moments I have pictures to prove.

But I could also get home and have a painstaking need to hear French enveloping me in public places, an isolation that is both peaceful and agitating. I could miss the pole that I finally – after an embarrassingly long 4 months – learned to avoid on my walk to school in the morning. I could wish I was back in my hot, shoebox-sized attic, listening to the sound of the neighborhood kids outside my window, playing and singing until 9:30 pm because that’s how late the sun sets in Belgium. I could miss sitting in the grass in Belgium, surrounded by people who I’ve come to know over the past four months, but who will soon be strangers once again, a weird phenomenon of studying abroad with people who don’t go to your school.

Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic

Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic

They may not sound like it, but these are the special moments. The special moments within not-so-special days. Moments I won’t have a million pictures of. As a friend on my program said last week, these are the moments that help you grow. And who knows? They might just be what I’ll miss the most.

Carly (Caroline) Walsh is a GWSB Junior studying Marketing.  She is currently abroad on GW’s Business, Communications, and Culture Program in Brussels with CIEE.  Click here to read more about it.  Be sure to read her first blog post Waffles, Chocolate, Frites and Business in Brussels.  

Follow @GWSBabroad on twitter!

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