opinion

COLUMN: If presented the opportunity to travel, do it



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Michael Skiles stands during spring break on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. Michael Skiles Buy Photos

Some people go their entire lives in one small corner of this vast world we live in. That’s like riding the same ride over and over again at an amusement park.

The world has plenty to offer. We just have to take the initiative to see it. You’re cheating yourself if you refuse to travel. If you have the opportunity and resources to see different parts of the world, you certainly should do it.

My spring beak was in no way a calm period of rest and relaxation. Instead, it was filled with new experiences and involved a jam-packed schedule that made the week feel more like a month.

I was able to go on a trip thanks to the course MSCH-X 478: Field Experience in Media, commonly known as In the Footsteps of Ernie Pyle. This is a travel course at the Media School.

Part of the class’ curriculum included traveling to Europe while following in the footsteps of Ernie Pyle, one of World War II’s most famous war correspondents and a former IU student.

This trip was my first to Europe. My travel experience preceding this trip included a few corners of the United States and a couple islands in the Caribbean.

The trip was daunting but extremely exciting to me. I’ve always wanted to travel to faraway countries. This travel course was my opportunity to do so, and I simply took it.

Upon our arrival to London, my eyes were opened to how vastly different, yet similar, the new and old worlds are. London is a surreal mixture of modern ambition and sleepy, noble class.

This is most evident in its buildings. Old, distinguished Victorian houses and Roman-style classical buildings lay at the feet of incredibly distinct, powerful skyscrapers.

Getting used to the dialect was a huge part of the battle. At customs, I was barraged by a series of questions by a man with the thickest English accent I’d ever heard. Thankfully, my delayed responses didn’t warrant suspicion.

Truly, language is a huge part of world travel that many of us would, at first glance, overlook. This brings us to the two other stops on our trip: Normandy and Paris.

Naturally, most people in France speak French. I figured this would be the case. However, I also expected them to at least speak a little bit of English. I was sorely mistaken.

Often, I found myself ordering food off a menu simply by pointing at the items. Aside from our tour guides, very few people spoke enough English to properly hold a conversation.

This incited a new personal outlook for me. I used to expect everyone to know English. I even expected those who visited the United States from faraway countries to know enough to get their intentions or points across.

While in France, I was in their shoes. I was confused and intrigued at the same time. Experiencing the world of another language opened my eyes to sympathy for those who visit the United States.

They too hope to visit our “faraway” land and see it for themselves. Like me, they didn’t want to learn an entirely new language to do so.

Still, the language barrier didn’t hinder my ability to translate the immaculate beauty of the sights I saw. From Buckingham Palace to the Arc de Triomphe, I saw landmarks that will stay with me all my life.

Traveling and seeing the world will provide you with experiences that will not only enrich your life, but will improve who you are. Truly, I couldn’t imagine having lived and died without looking on the stunning magnificence that is the Eiffel Tower with my very own eyes.

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