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Alex Borg poses for a photo with an accordion on Soldiers and Sailors Lawn.
Alex Borg: Her accordion anchors a ‘no-man Jimmy Buffett band’
By Patrick Swain, Culture Editor • April 12, 2024
Opinion | CPCs, get off our campus
By India Krug, Senior Staff Columnist • April 12, 2024

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Alex Borg poses for a photo with an accordion on Soldiers and Sailors Lawn.
Alex Borg: Her accordion anchors a ‘no-man Jimmy Buffett band’
By Patrick Swain, Culture Editor • April 12, 2024
Opinion | CPCs, get off our campus
By India Krug, Senior Staff Columnist • April 12, 2024

Opinion | My first time out of the country was life-changing and yours can be too

City+of+London+skyline+at+night.
Image via Ilya Grigorik/Wikimedia Commons
City of London skyline at night.

I always wanted to travel abroad. I always imagined myself going out of the country visiting different places like Thailand, Greece and Ghana. For a while now, my aunt and grandma have been urging me to obtain my passport simply to have and to be able to travel internationally. I was finally able to get it last year, which I was so excited about. My teammate on the cheer squad and I planned to go to Toronto for spring break last year, but because of personal things, we couldn’t, so I stayed home in North Carolina. 

However, this past summer, my two other friends and I were determined to make sure we ended our senior year off with an adventurous spring break. So, from last June, we saved up so we could go to Europe — London, Paris and Venice for the week. I have always wanted to go to London since I was twelve because I was a huge One Direction fan. 

London, United Kingdom

My two friends and I stayed in London the entire week of spring break. We arrived on March 10 and stayed until March 15. Although my friends had been to other parts of the world such as Puerto Rico and Jamaica, we three collectively have never been out of the Americas. 

We arrived around 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 10, in London, and the first thing we did was get food. After we settled in our hotel, the first food we got was fish and chips, of course. Fish and chip places are open pretty late at night, but we were curious to try it, and also that is a famous, cultural and popular food amongst the British. Collectively, we all realized that fish and chips wasn’t our favorite food, but it was the experience of trying different cultural things with my friends that made the meal worth getting. The following Monday, we explored the city and went to some places like Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Piccadilly Circus, which reminded us of Times Square in New York. 

That Wednesday, we continued our exploration in the city and visited the iconic Abbey Road pictured on one of The Beatles’ album covers. Alongside there, we also went to Carnaby Street, Primrose Hill and the London Eye. People in the U.K. were so nice, and they were very helpful when we asked for directions as tourists trying to navigate the city for the first time. Our hotel was in London for the whole week, but we realized how close the U.K. is to other countries, so we booked trips to visit Paris and Venice during the week too. 

Paris, France

On Tuesday, March 12, we left London for the day and took a train to Paris, which was only a 2 1/2 hour ride. It was raining the whole time we were there, which kind of put a damper on our mood for a bit, but we still enjoyed our experience. We arrived there at 10:30 a.m. and didn’t leave for our train back until 9 p.m., so we made sure to make the most out of our day. We went to see the most known artifact there — the Eiffel Tower. It was a lot bigger than I thought when I would see it on television shows, but I was so excited to see it in real life. 

Alongside the Eiffel Tower, we walked around and checked out the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre and the Palais de Tokyo art museum. The coolest part of the trip was at the end of the day trip where we saw the Eiffel Tower at night light up. It was worth going through the heavy downpour and wet clothes to see the thing that makes France so stunning sparkle. 

Venice, Italy 

Thursday was the last full day before we had to pack up our stuff and head back to the States. So, we decided to book a flight to Venice. Venice was super different as the airport is on another part of land that is far from the mainland. So, my friends and I took a water taxi to get to the city, which was very fast and different. This day was our best weather day out of the whole week as it was the brightest and warmest. I ate Italian pizza, which was tastier than I imagined. Yet, the view of Venice was priceless as we went on a gondola boat to tour the city. We saw the San Marco statue, which is very monumental to the city, and the Rialto Bridge, which was prettier in person than I’ve seen in TikTok videos. 

Those were just a few of the places that I went to for my first time ever abroad and my experience in a place like Europe. The cost of the entire trip was actually pretty inexpensive, especially with transportation, food and attractions. If you plan accordingly, think of attractions beforehand and pay in increments, then the costs won’t feel too overwhelming. I would personally recommend planning your trip itinerary at least 6-8 months in advance to give yourself time to save and budget.

I think everyone should go abroad to try different foods and learn about the culture that is home to each new country. I keep my mind as open as possible and not turn to ignorance, especially as a Black person hearing horror stories on Youtube and TikTok about traveling abroad while Black. I learned the importance of saving in advance and budgeting to make sure I can enjoy my trip without any concerns. Don’t let the language barrier stop you from wanting to visit a country that you always wanted to go to or thought of going to. Getting out of your comfort zone will show you what is truly out there that you never thought of before. If I can do it, so can you!

Ashanti McLaurin primarily writes about Black culture, human injustices and gives life advice. Write to her at [email protected].

About the Contributor
Ashanti McLaurin, Staff Columnist