The Perfect Spring Break

Jackie O'Leary Queen Mary University of London, England


April 16, 2015

British universities have many differences from American universities: class structures, how they grade, how many years you go to university. But one of the most advantageous differences for study abroad students is the two-week long spring break students get between the last day of classes and revision week (the week before finals). For British students, they use this time to go home, celebrate Easter and spend time with family while revising for their upcoming finals. For study abroad students, these 2-3 weeks means one thing: travel. Fortunately for me, this break meant family as well, for my mom had planned on visiting me during the first week of spring break since I got accepted into Arcadia’s program. Therefore, after my last day of classes I set out on a week long spring break trip starting with visiting a friend from home in Rome, and then onto France (Paris and Normandy) with my mom, and ending with my mom and me spending time in London.

My trip to Rome was not my first soiree into a country that does not have English as its native language (I had already been to France and Spain). Therefore, this time I was prepared for the certain hurdles that not being a native speaker presents when traveling. When in a non-English speaking country, I have to get used to street names and subway stops I can’t pronounce, saying common phrases in a different language, and not being able to understand most people I encounter. Thankfully, my friend in Rome, Tara, has been taking Italian for the past two and a half months while living there, so I could rely on her heavily while traveling throughout the city. I also lucked out by traveling to France with my mom, for she took French throughout college and still remembers some useful phrases that I couldn’t hope to pronounce. However, despite being in both Italy and France, it’s amazing to see how large the American sphere of influence is, for most people who are tourists, like myself will encounter those who speak English well.

This trip was amazing for many reasons, one of which was being able to see the Pope THREE TIMES while in Rome. As a born and raised Catholic, seeing the Pope was an incredible experience every time. It’s hard to describe the feeling I got when seeing such an important person, but I assume it’s akin to how one would feel when seeing the president or the Queen. Experiences like seeing the Pope for the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday and then for Easter Mass on Easter morning are what I came to Europe for. Seeing the Pope back-dropped by the Vatican and the Colosseum are such awe-inspiring experiences that I could never dream to have in the States. It’s also an experience that’s somewhat common to Romans and Italians, so for that weekend I got to experience what life would be like if I lived in Rome- at least on the religious side.

Normandy BeachAnother reason I loved this week of traveling was because of the sheer amount of history that I was exposed to in both Rome and France. As a history minor, I definitely have an affinity for anything and everything that holds historical significance- so basically all of Europe. Being in Rome was the first time I had been around so much ancient history, and I absorbed it like a sponge. Walking on and touching stone that had been around since Julius Caesar just makes me feel reflective: it makes me want to know everything about what life was like back then while making my life and my time feel so insignificant in the history of the world. It’s quite an amazing feeling, and I got to have that experience multiple times in both Rome (in the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Pantheon) and in France (at the beaches of Normandy, Notre Dame, and some of the significant sights of the French Revolution). History cannot be ignored in Europe, and I am not only not ignoring it, but reveling in its abundance.

Despite just waxing lyrical about the awesomeness of the places I went and the experiences I had this past week, this trip would not have been half as great if I didn’t do it with my mom. I’m incredibly close to my mom, she’s my best friend, and I’m hers, and our relationship has been like that for most of my life. Being away from her while abroad has been the hardest part of this experience, so being able to see her and spend a week traveling with her was undoubtedly the best Easter present I’ve ever received. Although her street senses are not the sharpest and she can be hard of hearing sometimes, my mom really was the best travel companion, and I enjoyed every minute I spent with her. I also loved being able to show off my city (London) to her and being able to give her a little taste of my daily life as a Londoner. The people you travel with definitely can make or break a trip, so I’m so happy and thankful that I got to travel with my best friend so I could have the perfect spring break.


England Travel