Life is like a box of Chocolates: You never know what you’re going to get when visiting a country that isn’t your own.
Word on the street is that, next to Switzerland, the world’s best chocolate can be found in Belgium. Over the weekend, two of my new friends and I hopped on a plane, booked an Airbnb and spent 48 hours exploring the unfamiliar, yet beautiful Brussels, Belgium.
Seeing that we were strangers in this new city, we trusted Trip Advisor and its “Top 10 Things to See and Do in Brussels.” This sent us on a guided three-hour walk around Brussels on the “Groovy Chocolate Tour,” a visit to six hidden chocolate treasures within walking distance of the Grand Place.
Our host, Debra, gave us an introduction to the tour and quoted Forrest Gump. “Life is like a chocolate box,” she said, switching the phrasing around while still getting the point across. She went on to explain more about the tour and what the next few hours would look like, but my mind went in another direction.
I completed the quote, “You never know what you’re going to get,” and immediately thought about how the last two weeks that I’ve spent in Europe could easily be described by that line. As a visitor in a foreign country, I am going to encounter many things that are unfamiliar.
Things that are uncomfortable.
Things that are surprising.
Things that are incredible.
But that’s the best part. Traveling to new places allows me to experience an original and refreshing culture, giving me a new perspective through which to view the world. Since arriving in Europe, I’ve encountered new languages, new food, new people, new ways of life. Like a box of chocolates, I didn’t know what to expect, but I’ve loved every second.
Walking into a restaurant in Waco is easy. I go in, sit down, place my order and wait for my food. In Hungary though, that process looks a little different. Instead of “hello,” I normally hear “szia.” My response immediately lets waiters know I do not speak Hungarian, and it can sometimes become an awkward encounter if they aren’t necessarily confident in their English. Luckily, most people here are familiar with English or at least know enough to have a basic conversation. But, just when I expect to hear “hello,” the words come out in another language, and I adjust.
Just across I-35 in Waco, I can choose from a variety of restaurants. Whether I’m feeling Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, pizza or tacos, the “grease pit” can satisfy any of my cravings. Unsurprisingly, not many typical “American” chains are down the street from our Air BnB in Brussels. Instead of a chicken sandwich and waffle fries, a typical lunch consists of muscles and goulash. While I may have a craving for a burrito bowl from Chipotle, I chose a typical Hungarian restaurant for dinner, and I adjust.
In the midst of a brand-new semester, football season and readjusting to the Texas heat, an email popped up in my inbox that read, “Baylor in Budapest.” Something about it caught my eye, and I decided to ask for more information. Before I knew it, I was walking into the first of several meetings, introducing myself to 11 fellow Baylor students who, unknowingly to me, were going to be my best friends for the six weeks I would spend in Europe. We all come from different cities and states, merging our lives together, and we adjust.
Speaking of adjustments, that’s exactly what one of my classmates has had to do since arriving three weeks ago. 6,217 miles away from home, Maddie wrestled with anxiety during the first few days. Not only was she away from her family, but she was also adjusting to a new group of people, a new living situation and a new, but temporary, way of life. As she opened up to the possibilities of all that could happen in Budapest, she began to relax and enjoy her experiences. She traded her fears for adventures and can’t wait to see what else Budapest has to offer.
Since arriving in Europe, I’ve met countless natives – other students, local residents, program directors, waiters and waitresses. Each of them have their own lives, their own languages, their own responsibilities. Each are both similar and different from me. Each one has taught me that when I meet someone new, I never know what I’m going to get. Nonetheless, I attempt to make friends, and I adjust.
“Wow, this is different.”
“Hmm … this is weird.”
“I’m not used to this.”
All of these are thoughts that have crossed my mind within the last three weeks. The lack of clothes dryers after washing a load of laundry. The much smaller refrigerators. The almost daily visits to the grocery store. All of these thoughts are just me comparing my way of life to that of the locals. Yes, they may be a little out of the ordinary to me, but I continue with my life, and I adjust.
Forrest Gump might have been onto something when we said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” But, perhaps that’s the exciting part of visiting a foreign country, the necessary part of a new adventure. While the food may be different, and the people may speak a new language, the opportunity to live halfway across the world is once in a lifetime. And I adjust.