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A Summer Abroad: Europe

Thoughts

This past summer I spent a month travelling Europe with my family. We visited six different countries, experiencing various aspects of European culture through tourism, exploration, cuisine, and much more. The trip started with a ten hour flight from Los Angeles to Paris. From Paris we took a connecting flight to Prague, located in the Czech Republic.

After a couple of days in Prague, our travelling proceeded as follows:

Train from Prague to Vienna, Austria
Train from Vienna to Budapest, Hungary
Plane from Budapest to Paris, France
Train from Paris to Ghent, Belgium
Train from Ghent to Amsterdam, Netherlands
Plane from Amsterdam to Paris, France
Plane from Paris to Los Angeles, California

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Vienna, Austria

Travel, as a concept, is something most people may not stop to consider. When reflecting upon my trip, I realized the magnitude of our travels and the intense process of getting from place to place. The sheer time and effort spent was overlooked in the moment, but became a monumental part of the trip.  At times, it felt as if we spent more time travelling than being present in the countries in which we travelled. This is not necessarily bad, but a curious idea that had arisen.

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This idea of constant movement, which is what travelling in its essence – moving from one place to the next – was ever-present. When we weren’t sleeping, we were moving, whether it be walking, taking a taxi, a train, a bus, a boat, a plane, or the subway. In a way, this helped me see parts of the countries we were visiting in a new light. The train was a relaxing way to see the rural countryside. Taking boats through the canals of Amsterdam gave me a new perspective of urban planning as I saw the city’s foundations. Although this is something that Amsterdam is famous for – its canals – I would not have been able to experience the city in full without the travelling on a boat.

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As a Creative, spending a summer abroad served as an opportunity to learn, grow, and of course create. Absorbing the culture, meeting new people, and embracing all the facets of being in a new place was exciting. It offered an opportunity to generate ideas and produce work that was not only documentary, but also challenged aspects of my creative process. One challenge I faced was figuring out how I could abstract the ways in which I captured these locations. I tried to stray away from “tourist” type images and instead delve deeper.

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Amsterdam, Netherlands

I pushed myself to look at these countries in different ways – to pay more attention to the nuances rather than just the iconic monuments. I began to look for subtle hints of character, humor, and even design aesthetics – pops of color, unity, shapes, architecture. Associating places with these new characteristics became a helpful tool in making these images. Bringing in aspects of travel photography and showcasing the literal, while also being a personal documenter and creator was something I began taking into consideration. I now understood how to collect and construct images, based on my personal perspective of each city.

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Budapest, Hungary

This trip served as an immersive experience that not only informed me about various cultures, history and perspectives, but also introduced a way for me to expand my personal perspective and point of view. Travelling has always been something I’ve valued and enjoyed. Growing up, I lived and studied internationally, which I believe was crucial in the development of my  personality and morals. Having the opportunity to travel and understand new cultures has been a pivotal part of my growth as a person and artist.

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Prague, Czech Republic

As a student, travelling this summer exposed me to new outlooks and processes of thinking, not just in the ways in which I approach creating work, but also in how I conceptually formulate and express my thoughts and intentions as an artist. Travelling and immersing one’s self in new cultures and ways of life aids in learning and growth, both personally and professionally. Fresh, unfamiliar spaces help provide inspiration as well as new and exciting outlooks.

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Paris, France

Whether this be leaving the country or simply leaving campus, there are several ways in which you can expand your perspective. Immerse yourself in your city’s culture. Visit museums, galleries, and libraries. Check out your university’s study abroad or student exchange programs. The world is at your fingertips, there are so many resources and opportunities at your disposal! So take them and run with them! Get involved and ask questions!

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Budapest, Hungary

Going into my sophomore year of college at Pratt, these opportunities to travel and study abroad have been useful in problem solving. Moving forward, moments and experience like this past summer only push my interest in studying abroad Junior year. To close what I hope to be an informative and motivating photo essay, I quote Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. “Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”

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Photos by Pamela Wang

written by
Pam Wang
October 26, 2017