Lauren in London: Fall Break

By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
@LaurenDezenski

It’s good to get lost in a foreign country despite a language barrier./PHOTO VIA Lauren Dezenski

It seems only fair that I’m spending my last night of fall break holed up in a makeshift blanket-cocoon in my room with all the lights off, felled by a migraine. The last five days have been a total whirlwind (I hate that that’s such a cliché but it’s perfect way to put it) in what has become the total study abroad rite of passage: Fall break. Or spring break for those in the spring semester. Basically a chunk of time that you are given off so you can use it to do the most magical thing in Europe: travel. And travel we did.

First: Flying Ryanair to Budapest was largely uneventful—with one exception. Drinking a pint of cider over dinner before our flight certainly helped us get settled into our flight on the low-cost airline. Ryanair is infamous for selling seats at dirt-cheap prices and then charging you like crazy for things like multiple pieces of luggage or not being able to fit all of your belongings into the smallest suitcase known to man. But you do it because it’s all about the benjamins saved that are better used on boat tours or pub crawls. Duh. So the Ryanair flight to Budapest. Totally normal, run-of-the-mill. The plane descends, touches down and makes a successful landing. Suddenly the entire airplane erupts with applause.  And then the first call bugle song that they play at the Kentucky Derby (you know the one) plays over the speakers and a recording comes on saying Ryainair has the most on-time flights in Europe. And then everyone claps again. I’m not sure if we clapped because the flight was cheap or that we all survived the cheapest flights of our lives. For all I know, we could have been clapping for the fact that we were simply not dead.

Once we landed, we navigated the bus/metro system from the airport to our hostel in the center of the city. The highlight of all of our hostel stays on this trip had to be the first man we met in our hostel in Budapest, Zoltan. My friend Tyler, who I traveled with, gave a really solid summary of our encounter with Zoltan (since it only really happened once) on his blog and it’s definitely worth a read.

But back to why fall break travel is a rite of passage. Unless you’re keen on staying in the UK, most students (at least that I know of on the BU abroad program) use this time to visit places they’ve never been before. More often than not, these places are in different countries. And chances are, there’s a language barrier.

Studying abroad in London offers the unique chance to experience a different culture without having to get over a serious language barrier. Unless, of course, you’re me. But we’ll get to that later. For Tyler and I, we knew we wanted to travel to Budapest and Stockholm, so we booked the flights and hostels and went on our merry way. Emerging from customs in a foreign country is such a weird experience. You shuffle off the plane, hand over your documents and then you’re just spit out into this new place. The country is your oyster. It’s exhilarating and a little terrifying, especially when you’re looking for signs with English because neither you nor your travel partner speak Hungarian or Swedish. But you figure it out. Because you have to. At no point can you just throw up your hands and say “I’m done with this country I’m outta here.” Well, you could, but logistically it’d be quite difficult. You learn to truly roll with the punches and the ultimate value in asking for help. Plus a new-found appreciation for the fact that so many people in Europe are fluent in English.

Funny story about speaking English…My only serious issues with language barriers actually came from trying (and completely failing) to understand English-speakers. The best example is from our first night in Stockholm, when Tyler and I were chatting with this Australian guy also staying in the hostel. He was telling us about he had been traveling around Europe for the last couple months and I asked about his favorite place to visit. He responded “Ireland” but with his accent, I heard “island.” So I tried to clarify: “What island?” to which he replied, “Ireland.” Tyler had to put me out of misery before I brought us further shame by not understanding our own language.

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