This monologue was written a while back, when the writer was contemplating the fast-approaching end to her exchange semester abroad. So, fair warning about the sentimentality underscoring these exchange memoirs.
“There are exactly two weeks to go for my great semester exchange abroad to end and I am half-delighted and half-sad that the end has come so soon. For all my earlier declarations that life abroad is not for me, I have come to realize thatI actually like living this far away from people I know so well. There is a sort of liberty to be gained in being alone and being left to fend for oneself. As so many of my trips have taught me, I can do it, and so I did.
So, with the end of my 3 months in Europe drawing near, I looked over my Checklist for Europe. It’s not a pen-and-paper thing. I just had vague mental impressions of things I wanted to do and achieve on this adventure. To my knowledge and my great satisfaction, I have managed to cross off almost all of these.
To start with, Norway. I have been fascinated with the country ever since the seventh standard, when my teacher called it the ‘land of the midnight sun’. This was my chance to see it, and see it I did. I did not get to see my northern lights, the Aurora Borealis, but I did get to see fjords. I had no clue what fjords were before I actually saw them, except that they sounded very cool described in Hitch-hiker’s.
Prague: The City of the Iron Curtain, Land of Espionage and Spies sipping tea together, bartering information. Of the James Hadley Chase fame, at least to me, the city held a certain mystique. I can’t say it lived up to my imaginings however. I had dreamed up a dreary city, full of shady nooks and crannies. Prague proved to be quite delightful, much to my disappointment.
Spain: ZNMD unravelled. I had not given much thought to Spain as a country before seeing the movie, to be honest, except for Seville, which I associate with a certain deep red shawl of Carlotta’s. I was quite enchanted with the country though, from its paellas, tapas and sangrias to its gorgeous beaches, flamenco dancing and quaint old towns. It is definitely a new country to love.
Greece: War, Love, Incest, History and Lore. The Percy Jackson series left me quite well-versed in Greek mythology, making me long to go see the origins of these great myths and tales, the land of Jason and Perseus and Theseus. And Santorini with its roofs the color of the sea. I did not see these roofs, but I did set foot in the Acropolis and in Delphi.
And Paris! To live in this city has been a gift, to walk its streets a privilege. I see what the fuss is all about now. I can well imagine the gaiety and splendor of La Belle Epoch in this beautiful city.
This completes the checklist that I had come with, all checked and crossed out marvellously. But I added a few ‘Dones’ to my ‘To Do’ list along the way. Vienna and Croatia (especially Dubrovnik), Lisbon and Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Budapest, are surprisingly vivid memories that I can probably never explain sufficiently enough to people.
In the end, if someone were to ask me today what they must do in Europe, I would say: Make a long, long list of things you want to do, and keep going until you do them all. Caution: Europe is large and full of experiences: it might take some time.
And now, it’s time for one last trip, to the Riviera. And then it’s Au Revoir Europe. Arrivederci!
Neeraja is a member of LSD. This article was penned in a fit of sentimentality at the thought of leaving glorious European experiences behind. It was originally published here.