Thursday, December 8, 2011
Year End Reflection- What Have I Learned
This year, one of my personal achievement was to travel to 8 European countries by myself and mw own money, before the age of 20. I strongly believe that in order to achieve something in reality, we must first conceive it in mind, and make necessary actions towards it. I made it a target in my 19th birthday that I would be able to speak fluent German. I saved my scholarship money and work part-time more often, so that I managed to have more than SGD 9,000 in my bank account, within a year and no contribution from my parents at all. This had let me proof to myself that when I want something badly enough, I can achieve it. Not a really huge sum, I know, but to earn it in a year while studying full time and holding leadership position in school, I believe it is an accomplishment. And yes, opportunities come to those who are ready.
In early 2011, there was an opening for summerschool in Darmstadt, Germany for a month to study German language. The course fee itself was SGD 1,800. I then applied to my school to be considered for an exchange, which was magically accepted. I said this because during the 3 years of programme, there were only 2 international students sent, as Singaporeans are always given priority for such type of international exposure. The programme started in 21 May 2011, 2 days after my last exam. After a long and complex process of visa application, cheap ticket search, and travelling plan, I went alone by Lufthansa with EUR 2,500 cash and a Visa debit card. Had studied German language for 2 years in high school, I arrived in Frankfurt completely perplexed about what the people were talking.
I was picked up by the host allocated by Technical University of Darmstadt; her name is Jutta, works as a local judge and luckily, she speaks English. We quickly became in good relationship, while we have common interest in gardening and cooking. I gladly bought some flowers every week to replace the old ones in the living-room, helped her with laundry and cooked "nasi goreng", "mee goreng" which she really liked. Well, she offered to be my step-mother, which could make me a German national and bear her family name; but the requirement was that I need to legally erase my current parent-child relationship, I could not do that. However, I find it interesting, the little things I did makes a respected German woman want to adopt me.
Lastly, after the summerschool finished, I went to travel to 7 more countries in Europe, including Switzerland, France, Czech Republic, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands and Austria. I am not going to tell the amazing travel experience and beautiful sights I saw at each place. Getting lost, some flings, bar-hopping and communications breakdown, I would expect all that to happen. My experience can be best described as, er, traumatizing. I had my passport, all identity cards and debit cards stolen, with EUR300 i put in my sling-bag pouch.
So there I was, in front of Place St Michel, really shocked. A friend travelled with me, CWK, accompanied me to quickly went back to our hotel, and ask the receptionist if I had left it in the room. She does not speak English, so my friend managed to find a guy on the street to translate for me. This experience compelled me to learn French, which I'm currently doing. Since the pouch was not in the room, we went to nearest police office to report for lost.
This was getting better.
Out of 12 officers, there was only one who speaks good English. After struggling to get the police report, we went to Indonesian Embassy in Rue Cortambert, just to speak to the Counsellor to make me a temporary passport. There was no councellor, it was SUNDAY. I spoke to the security guard, who tried to call him and explain to me that i am the 6th case in the last 3 days. The moments were terrifying. His calm expression suggested that a lot of people have actually lost their passports.
With the police documents at hand, we went to Gare de l'Est to ask for train ticket replacement. I had to persuade and debate until the TGV officer reprinted the ticket for free, this was because I only left with few hundred euros to be spent on next destinations. We also managed to get my plane e-ticket printed in one of the hotel. He just hanged around waiting for me and comforted me. It was Sunday and we did not had any meal for 12 hours after I lost my pouch. Finally, he lent me EUR50 and I went back to Germany in evening. That was the day I learned about what "pressure" was. And I am truly grateful and thankful to you, CWK.
I continued to travel, this time with much more care, to my remaining destinations. During those days, I forged friendship and exchange contacts with some other travellers. Lastly, on my flight date, which was on 5.30pm from Paris to Jakarta, I was stranded in Brussels-Midi train station. They were having problem with electricity, and it was around 1pm that I got a train to Gare du Nord. I rushed to the airport with 30kg luggage and there were so many people queuing at check-in desk, due to baggage belt failure. I remember the feeling of blood rushing through my body. Pushed my way through the huge crowd, I caught my flight just on time. Needless to say, I fell asleep most of the journey, until I met an Indonesian cruise-ship worker who sat beside me in plane, glaring on the untouched super-early breakfast on my table. Well I had no palate at all to the strawberry yogurt, stale hard bread, and ricotta-garnished spinach ravioli. He finished them.
To my surprise, after i arrived in Jakarta, my luggage was not there. I came out from airport in tears, hugged my parents and felt bad about losing all souvenirs. Luckily, it was found to be still in Paris, which then delivered to me 4 days later. PT JAS had done it well. I wrote a compliment letter to Kompas for that.
So these are some of the things I learned about, the ability to deal with adversity and problems, from language, money, communication, time and emotion management; all this were tested during my memorable travelling experience.
Posted by Kezia Gusmawan