How traveling abroad helped me appreciate carving my own path

Joseph Ferrer, Arts & Entertainment Editor

For most of my life, traveling never felt overly special. The only places I’ve visited consisted of tropical beaches and sunny vacation destinations and while that was satisfying for the rest of my family and exciting when I was younger, these trips began to feel uneventful as time went on. There was so much more to the world that I hadn’t seen and being only around family during these trips became less enticing as I longed for new experiences with new people. This spring break, however, was my first opportunity to break away from that through a study-abroad course that brought me to both London and Paris. This trip gave me everything I was looking for and more out of travel has not only given me memories that will stick with me for the rest of my life but also helped further shape me into who I am.  


As someone who was born and raised in New York, I could never relate to the feelings of tourists that I saw walking the city streets in amazement at the skyscrapers and lights around them. What felt like a fantasy land to them was part of everyday life for me, but traveling to London made me completely understand their perspective. Having those moments of seeing the Big Ben, Tower Bridge and other landmarks for the first time in person felt like seeing fake backdrops come to life as I got closer to them.Unlike other cities, London’s history and culture can still be felt within so much of its architecture, which gives the entire city a unique sense of beauty. This was felt both with the most famous landmarks of the city and the small corners that I had the chance to discover on my own –  from hole-in-the-wall bookshops to late-night music venues. This trip also gave me a new sense of independence that I’ve never felt before. Over the course of the week, I learned to navigate both the United Kingdom and France, two foreign countries, one of which did not have English as its primary language, on my own. There were certain instances that felt scary while in the moment whether accidentally getting off at the wrong tube stop in London or navigating the intimidating, crowded streets of Paris but these moments helped me feel more self-reliant than I had in the past.  


For myself, this trip served as a reflection of how far I’ve come in life during the past four years at Iona. My social life now isn’t what it was before college, and I used to wish for and dream about having friends that I could have exciting moments like going out together and traveling the world with. There were several moments during the trip where I stopped and took in the fact that I was surrounded by people that I’ve come to know and deeply appreciate both for the friends I already had going into the trip and for the new ones I made throughout it as well.  

This alongside so many other reasons is why I feel so blessed to have been able to have the experience in London that I did. The chances of me being able to study abroad were low with most trips getting canceled throughout my four years at Iona due to the pandemic. This was my last and only opportunity to go on a trip like this as a student, and I’m so grateful I was able to seize it. From deliriously walking the streets with the class at 3 in the morning to catch the earliest train to Paris to huddling together in the rain while waiting for a double-decker bus, there are so many shared memories that will stick with all of us that went on the trip, and I’m so happy that for the first time, I have a trip that I can truly call my own.