Country to Country is Like State to State
Program Semester and Year
Traveling between countries from Ireland seems to be easier than traveling between states in the US. I’m from Southern California, so I’ve flown a fair amount to and from Oregon for school, since the drive between my home and school is around 16 hours one way, though I’ve also done the drive twice. Customs aside, traveling between countries is the same as traveling between states. I had originally been so anxious to study abroad, because I had never been far from the West of the US, so going abroad was going to be a whole new experience. I was mostly anxious for the flight. I was scared to go through customs and scared for a longer flight. I found that flying from California to Dublin wasn’t that bad, but found myself anxious again by the time reading week (spring break) rolled around and I was preparing to fly to Stockholm, Sweden and travel for a week.
Flying from Dublin to Stockholm took the same amount of time as it does to fly from Los Angeles to Portland and costed slightly less. Sometimes I still can’t believe that I’m in a whole different country, since I don’t really feel like I’m separated from my home by an ocean. There are sometimes reminders though, like hearing other people talk about Americans. My first night in Stockholm, I walked into the 7-eleven across the street from my hostel and witnessed the cashier talking to two guys from Texas. I only caught the end of their conversation, but I did hear him sort of mocking the US jokingly. When the two from Texas left, he started a conversation with me, asking were I’m from. I laughed, answering “the US” with a smile, because I already knew he doesn’t think highly of the US. Then he asked which state, and I answered California. He said California is the only state he actually liked, since the people there are the only ones that seems to think [and vote] with their brain. Even though I’ve been abroad for over two months now, it’s still weird to hear other people talk about America, especially about politics because nearly everyone has something to say. Unrelated to his feelings for the US, I also found out he started working night shifts at a brothel when he was only sixteen years old, which I thought was odd. It was an interesting night to kick off my week of travels.
My train from Stockholm, Sweden to Oslo, Norway took about six hours; the same amount of time it takes to drive from Los Angeles, California to Phoenix, Arizona. I always think of countries as being gigantic, but I know that some are as small (or as big) as some US states. Sometimes I realize how big the states are. Driving from Los Angeles to Portland takes nearly sixteen hours, while the drive I’m going to be doing in May from Barcelona, Spain to Rome, Italy takes only around twelve hours, including driving through the coast of France. Aside from a brief announcement that we’d be crossing into Norway in a few minutes, nothing was different when crossing country lines with the soft borders like those between the states in the US.
Going from Oslo, Norway to Copenhagen, Denmark took much longer than my other travels. It was going to take three different trains and a total of nearly twelve hours to make the trip, but because of train delays and a missed connection due to the delay, I had to take four trains and it took nearly fifteen hours. Maybe trains between states are a bit easier, because I know the train along the west coast of the US between Los Angeles and Portland takes thirty hours, but at least travelers don’t have to constantly switch trains and worry about delays or missed connections.
Traveling during reading week gave me a bit of a taste of what my travels are going to be life after the program, which I am both scared and excited for. Aside from travel delays, going through customs is not as terrifying as I imagined it to be, and I enjoy relaxing in a train.