I Went To Europe Alone For Five Months And It Was The Greatest Experience Of My Life

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Nearly a year ago, I was preparing to embark on the greatest adventure of my life. I was about to leave good, old America to travel to England to live for five months through a study abroad program. I haven’t really shared too many stories with people about my experience in fear of becoming the girl who isn’t invited to parties because “ugh all she talks about is England.” But you know what? Fuck it. I lived in a great country for nearly half of a year, and it was rad as hell.

The first night I arrived was the most lost and alone that I have ever been. I had a four hour layover in Amsterdam, and because I left in January, snow was falling so the second leg of my flight was delayed. You might be thinking, “Wow! Was it a terrible blizzard or something?” Nope. There was maybe 2 inches (I still don’t use the metric system) on the ground. It does not snow in England the way that it does in northeast Ohio. Any bit of snow fall for them causes sheer chaos. “Well, we saw one snowflake so we need to cancel all flights because we would SURELY crash and die upon trying to land this chunk of metal on a runway that we now believe is just an iceberg.” All other flights out of Amsterdam were cancelled except mine because my pilot was a badass chick who wasn’t afraid of anything.

Originally, I was supposed to arrive in Birmingham around 4pm but didn’t end up there until around 9pm. “OK,” I thought, “it’s still pretty early, and I have plenty of time to make the maybe half hour train ride from Birmingham to Wolverhampton.” I bought my ticket and lugged my two giant suitcases to the trains. BUT GUESS WHAT?! Most trains also don’t work over there when the snow falls! One conductor was waving people onto the one train that was running. Instead of thinking, “I have no idea where this single train is going. I should probably stay inside this warm airport and maybe sleep a little bit here until morning when I can be sure of where I am going,” I thought, “hell yeah! I’m all alone in a country that I have never been to. But you know what, life is all about making stupid, rash decisions so load me up! I’ll go wherever this train goes.” Mistake. I ended up asking at least seven people if that train was going to Wolverhampton, and none of them had any idea! Man, English people must also be as spontaneous and fun (or dumb) as I. Luckily, I heard the conductor announce that the train WAS stopping in Wolverhampton. Yes! I made it! I am an intelligent grown up with insanely good luck! My intelligence, however, stopped there because I had chosen a seat as far away from an exit as possible.

Remember those giant suitcases I was carrying around? I couldn’t haul them fast enough to make it out of the train at my stop before the doors shut again, and we were off to the next city. I HAVE NEVER CRIED SO HARD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. I was so lost. No more trains were running to take me back to the city that I needed to go. I guess being a sad, crying American can cause English people to take pity on me because a girl in the row next to mine offered to get off at the next stop with me so she could call me a cab. These were my pre-smart phone with a bomb ass international plan days, so I gladly accepted. We got off and she called me a taxi then left in a separate one. I waited for nearly 45 minutes, and no taxi came. I started crying again. But HOORAY! My cute, sad American thing worked again! A bald man who was just about to get into his taxi offered his up to me. Thanks, bald man! If I ever meet you again, I owe you a drink or seven. Around 11pm, I had finally made it to my room at the university which was next to a Wal-Mart like store. I bought some sheets, made my bed, and cried myself to sleep thinking about how badly I wanted to go home. I am so happy I didn’t because the next day I met up with two other American girls who quickly became the greatest people I have ever met, and I stopped feeling so alone.

It’s difficult for me to narrow down my favorite things about the UK, but I managed to get the list down to two.
First off, I WAS THE ONE WITH AN ACCENT OVER THERE. You know how girls get all loud and screechy whenever they hear a British man say literally ANYTHING? (Seriously, he could say, “I have to dash to the loo” which essentially means “I’m headed to the poop-room to drop off a big, steamy load,” and girls would go NUTS over it.) Well, I WAS THAT PERSON GUYS/GIRLS WERE EXCITED ABOUT. I think I said the word “aluminum” more times in those 5 months than I will for the rest of my life. In America, I have to actually think of interesting things to say after saying hello to someone. However, in England, I could JUST say hello, and they would automatically think I was interesting (I’m not).

The second thing that I loved the most about being across the pond was the fact that there was curry. LITERALLY. EVERYWHERE. Would you like sugar or curry in your coffee? UM IS THAT EVEN A QUESTION? GIVE ME THE CURRY. Chicken tikka masala? More like CHICKEN MAKIN ME-HOLLA. I love curry. Curry is great. I’m pretty sure I can’t get a curry enema anywhere, but being in England was pretty damn close.

While we are on the subject of food that I love, I also love tacos. (Currently wanting to take a break from writing this so I can make curry tacos). Here’s something weird and terrible about the British, though: most of them have never had a taco before. People would ask me what I missed most about America, and without missing a beat, I would say “taco bell.” (Sorry, friends and family, I missed you a ton too, but I was just being very honest). Then their response would be, “what’s taco bell?” I hope you guys never get drunk and hungry at 3am because what the heck do you do then?! Luckily, because I went over there with a group of Americans, we were able to propose the idea of taco Tuesdays. And guess what? They loved it! I hope they are all still making tacos every week, even if they did slightly ruin them by putting mayonnaise on theirs instead of sour cream. Holy crap do they love mayonnaise over there.

Studying in England held a ton of firsts. First tacos. The first time I traveled alone to a place where I didn’t know anyone already. I even dated a vegetarian who wouldn’t kiss me until after I brushed my teeth if I ate meat. My favorite first, though, had to be the first time that I ever punched a boy in the face. It was a Tuesday night which was the night of the week that was big for a club called Indi Bar. There was nothing indi about it by the way. The closest it ever got was playing the song Mr. Brightside once a night. I was dating a British guy at the time, but he had a lot of school work to do so I was free to go out with other friends. Before heading to the club, one of the American girls, named Emily, and I shared a bottle of vodka. I remember that it was vodka because that night made me never want to drink vodka again.

We arrived at the club drunk as a skunk and started dancing. Shortly after, Emily asked if I wanted to go out for a cigarette. I normally don’t pass up a cigarette while drinking, but I was having too much fun. I wouldn’t have had any problem dancing alone for the ten minutes tops that it took her to smoke. I wasn’t alone for long though. My Chandler Bing-like dance moves must have grabbed this boy’s attention, because he started dancing with me. He was probably cute. But it was also probably dark. And I probably had too many jaeger bombs. After 30 seconds of dancing, he leaned in and very sweetly asked if he could kiss me. I COULD have kindly said, “I’m sorry. I have a boyfriend,” then went to go find Emily for a smoke. That would have been fine. That would have been nice. However, what I DID do was jump back, punch him in the face, then run out the door where I got into a taxi and begged the driver to let me smoke in the car. He didn’t let me. Give that man a promotion or something because apparently my cute and sad American thing is convincing, but he didn’t let it work on him.

Another amazing first was the first time I went to Paris with the previously mentioned Emily and another American girl named Elizabeth. (They are both such great people. Do you know them? I should introduce you.) We had felt slightly bad that we had not been traveling around as much as we wanted so we planned a trip to go to Paris over our Easter break. We bought our train tickets for out of London, and we were ready to go. Armed with the only French we knew being “omelette du fromage” courtesy of Dextor’s Laboratory, this trip was sure to be an adventure. Once we arrived, we were already lost. You would think I would have been a pro at this after getting lost on my first night in Enlgand. Nope. Very wrong. At least I was lost with friends this time.

The first thing we did was try to get a taxi. We were able to hail one right away, but because the driver spoke absolutely zero English, he was not able to bring us to our previously booked hotel. Good thing I had an iPod so I could get directions off of google maps for us to walk haha! You might ask, “Why is that funny?” WELL I WILL GET TO THAT PART IF YOU GIVE ME A SECOND. YOU READ THIS MUCH OF MY STORY SO CAN YOU GIVE ME ANOTHER SECOND AT LEAST?! Anyway, I put the address into my trusty iPod and we started walking. The directions were so clear, and it was so easy to get to our final destination! We arrived after about half an hour. BUT OOPS! This wasn’t our hotel. This was an apartment. Nope, not gonna go inside of there. See? This is why I laughed earlier. We were unsure of what we were going to do so we began wandering around aimlessly because our hotel had to be SOMEWHERE around there. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t. We walked around for hours.

Eventually, after many failed attempts at asking for directions (I’m fairly certain one man just drew a dick on a piece of paper and tried to pass it off as a map), we came across a different hotel and were completely ready to pay for another hotel room just so we could sleep. We walked in, and HELL YEAH the man at the front desk spoke English so he called us a taxi. He was so nice. And handsome. Seriously. I would smooch his face so hard if I ever saw him again. Paris was both beautiful and exciting once we got the hang of it. Though, the first night that we were completely lost and halfway insane from being hungry and tired was definitely the best part of the trip.

Living in England and traveling throughout Europe was the greatest decision I have ever made and the coolest thing I will probably ever do, and I sincerely hope you all have a chance to go to a country by yourselves as well. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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