Dear England (... and Holland, Portugal, Poland, and France),
I visited five European countries this summer while I was studying Physics at the University of Sussex, on the Southern Coast of England. Of course I spent the most of my time in England, which I have become incredibly fond of, but each country taught me something unique. I will list each of the countries and (some of) what they taught me, starting with the one I spent the least amount of time in, and ending with the one I spent the most time in.
To Holland, you are stunning. I don't think I knew a view could take my breath away until I was standing overlooking Zaanse Schans. You taught me that a country's vastness has nothing to do with it's beauty, that clogs are surprisingly comfortable, and that there is nothing better than a stroopwafel in the morning.
To Portugal, to be fair, I don't have a load to write since I spent almost all of my time in the countryside riding. This did teach me; however, just how special it is to ride a breed of horse in their country of origin. The Lusitano horse is regal, strong, proud, and the Portuguese people are proud of this. I would be too - I can't think of anything better than galloping with Gabriela, my Lustiano mare, through the hills of Constancia overlooking the Tagus River. I will never forget how it felt!
To Poland, thank you for being the only Eastern European country on my list. That made you special in itself. You made me feel like I was truly somewhere foreign, and it was exhilarating. Something I will never forget was joining a group of Polish for a traditional Polish BBQ - Keilbasa, bread, and vodka. No vodka for me, but the keilbasa was out-of-this-world good. Nobody around the table spoke English, only Polish. I didn't understand a single word that was said, but I listened and wholeheartedly enjoyed every moment. Although I couldn't discern what was being said, I could tell what direction the conversation was going by facial expressions, hand gestures, and reactions. I found myself laughing when they were, and listening intently even when I couldn't understand. Poland, you made me realize that no matter where we are on the globe, we are all human. And feeling the same to a group of people I had never met previously, who live 6,000 miles away from my home - that is something I will always hold dear.
To France, you taught me the importance of trying to submerge oneself in a country's culture whilst visiting - even if that visit is only for 10 days. That seems like a simple lesson to learn when written, but it really isn't. Trying to live by the motto "When in Rome" becomes a much greater challenge when you are in a country that takes you out of your comfort zone. But what a humbling experience. Speaking French and eating pastries isn't too bad - and the Eiffel Tower is one of the most glorious sights my eyes have ever seen.
And finally, to my dear England, you taught me an immeasurable amount. I will keep it short and sweet because I could blubber forever, but you taught me this: There is absolutely nothing sweeter in this world than sharing a cup of tea with somebody you care about.
I will see you again soon.