Traveling to Europe has always been on my bucket list and I have finally had the chance to travel there in the recent months. During my (almost) month-long trip, I traveled to 7 countries, and the cities in chronological order are: Alicante-Spain -> Barcelona-Spain -> Rome-Italy -> Dubrovnik-Croatia -> Prague-Czech Republic -> Eindhoven-The Netherlands -> Brussels-Belgium -> Ghent-Belgium -> London-UK -> York-UK -> Edinburgh-UK.
Although the trip was tiring, walking as much as 13 miles on some days with an average of 8-9 miles per day, it was well worth the effort. It was really fascinating to be exposed to a variety of languages and accents, and it made me wonder how did most of these languages evolve from their common ancestor: Latin. The Roman Empire controlled most of the lands around the Mediterranean Sea about 2 thousand years ago. They developed one of the first civilizations, including useful conventions such as arithmetic, architecture, language and legal system. It was a surreal experience standing by the Roman ruins in Rome and picturing what the whole place was like during that time.
Going from the past to the future, Brussels was inspiring in its own way. Brussels is home to the European parliament, thus all of the important decisions made by the EU are all discussed and coined here, makes Brussels the political center of the whole Europe. By visiting the parliament, I learned a lot about the history as well as the outlook of the EU. It is encouraging that the EU has made Europe a lot more peaceful compared to pre-EU times. People are even thinking about establishing a “United States of Europe”, to unite all European countries into one, to achieve a unified and undefeatable country. In my opinion, I think this could be done, though this will not be a stable outcome. as the opening sentence of the Three Kingdoms (三国) states: 话说天下大势，分久必合，合久必分。This indicates that politics is an ever-changing subject, just like everything else.
Another remark that I want to point out about my trip is that I found that talking to strangers could be a very rewarding experience. When I was on a train from Barcelona airport to the city center, I decided to strike up a conversation with the lady sitting next to me. Turns out she was a cardiologist and was on her way to a conference to discuss funding. She was also the first ever female president of polish cardiology society in its 70 year long history. She gave me invaluable advice on how not to be intimidated to enter a male dominating field as a female, which was exactly what I needed as I start my PhD in Engineering this fall. We exchanged contact info and have been in touch from then on. Other interesting encounters including a very nice Italian woman gave me a 2-hour crash course of Italian during my flight from Spain to Italy; During a train ride from London to York, a man who works in the financial sector was actually well informed in the research progress of graphene; a women I met while waiting for a train told me that she was going on a solo week-long hike because her husband just left her (I felt really bad because she started crying after 2-minutes into the conversation).
In conclusion, I am very glad that I spent sometime traveling by myself as well as with friends, I have learned so much about foreign cultures, became more physically fit, and built stronger friendships and relationships. I highly recommend such experience to any individual who enjoys adventures.