Kim Soh-min Dept. of International Relations firstname.lastname@example.org
Last summer vacation, I traveled with two friends to six European countries for 21 days. We got the opportunity to travel abroad with many other students from our university last year. We were the first students to be given such a chance and we felt very lucky.
We were excited and thought it was a great idea to go abroad and experience various cultures. In order to learn and experience as much as possible, given the limited amount of time we had, planning out the trip thoroughly was important. We researched travel books, the Internet, and many other sources of information to get ready.
In our search, we found some tips for travelers like us that were important and essential. The information was so useful to us, I’d like to share them with those of you who might travel to Europe next summer. Most of the information was easily obtained on Internet websites, so it will be pretty easy to get.
So many things to see, with so little time
If you travel throughout Europe, you will be amazed by its greatness. The greatness of size, diversity, culture, and history are so impressive. There are many places to visit so your mind will be full of what you have to see, rather than what you want to see. My friends and I had this problem.
For the first few days, we followed our plan exactly. However, we soon tired from visiting so many famous places, and realized that it would be a waste of our time if we just stuck to our guide books.
There are thousands of beautiful churches and cathedrals in Europe. Because Europeans have kept their own traditions and cultures well, their museums are quite inspiring, especially the most famous museums such as the Louvre in Paris, and the Great Britain Museum in London. I don’t even remember how many museums we visited during our trip.
Eventually, we changed our plan and decided to make the most of our short time there. For example, since our major is International Relations, we were particularly interested in the formation and process of the unification of East and West Germany. We decided to stay in Berlin for three days to gather some information that could help us out with our inquiries.
It might seem like three days are not enough to know fully about a country and its people, but compared with the other travelers who had been to Berlin, we found ourselves successfully organized with the information we sought. Consequently, it is very important not to waste your time just touring around crowded tourist sites in Europe. You might have to make yourselves participate in some useful activities as well, and use the given time efficiently.
Are you a Japanese? a Chinese?
-No, I’m a Korean
We went to England, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. As we traveled throughout six different countries, we saw many Korean tourists. Nevertheless, when Europeans asked us where we were from, they would always ask us whether we were Japanese or Chinese, but never Korean.
When asked, we proudly answered that we were Korean, but either they didn’t know where Korea was, or they made faces at us. Their response made us feel very uncomfortable and confused but later, we understood why. As I mentioned above, there were thousands of Koreans traveling throughout Europe last summer, yet their public etiquette was shocking.
Talking loudly in museums, throwing garbage on the ground, spitting on streets, cutting in lines, and other rude behaviors were done by Koreans. We became so ashamed, once we were in Paris, we had to pretend not to be Koreans! Hence, in order to speak up and proudly say that I’m a Korean in front of Europeans, I thought we still have a lot of work to do to ourselves.
Warning! Beware of pickpockets in Europe
When we were in Paris, we went to the Louvre by subway. Because I had heard there were many pickpockets on the subway, my friends and I only carried 30,000 won in francs. Carrying the money in our pockets was uncomfort-able, so we decided to let one person carry all the money in their little neckline purse.
There were so many people on the subway that we forgot to pay attention to the pickpockets. All of a sudden, two girls who look like gypsies jumped at me, causing my friend to loose her balance and forget to hold her purse.
That was when they opened her purse and took out the wallet. At first, we didn’t know what was going on. The girls had hurt me and everyone was worried about me.
It was not until the doors closed and the subway started to move, that my friend screamed, “It’s gone!” We panicked and she cried. Not having any money with us, we went upstairs and tried to explain what had happened to the stationmaster. She didn’t care and only spoke in French even though she knew we were tourists and didn’t understand French.
Later, we learned that the French don’t like when foreigners speak in English and actually ignore your problems if they aren’t involved in them. After that incident, we realized the risk it takes when you travel in another country, and the general characteristics of the French. Throughout our trip, we met many Korean tourists who had their bags, money, or valuables pick-pocketed or snatched in different countries.
Similarly, most of them agreed that Europeans did not care about the tourist robberies. They also felt a greater discrimination against them because they were Korean. It was true. I began to realize the importance of national power, global etiquette, and world-wide recognition when foreign travelers visit other countries.
A few days ago, I looked through the pictures that I took on our trip. As I went through them, I recalled the wonderful memories of Europe that I will never forget. I had a great time. I have beautiful pictures, and memories that will last a lifetime. But, I also suffered from a cold, a language barrier, and pick-pockets. When I was in Europe, I really wanted to go back to Korea.
After all our experiences, my friends and I realized that Korea was the best place to live after all. The cost of living is much lower, bathrooms are free, and most of all, the people are much warmer and caring. Yet, I learned many things from the trip, too. European culture is fascinating. They are loyal to their heritage, appreciate their history, and are proud of who and what they are.
There was much more, but I thought these were the most important values of which we also have to learn and cherish. Therefore, the trip that I had last summer gave me so much. After you read this article, I hope you will want to go to Europe and get as much from it as I did!