Taking a look back at my childhood, I have vivid memories of curiously traipsing through the woods near my house, and exploring the yet untouched and undeveloped landscapes. The pine and maple trees lined the forest and I gazed amongst them exploring far and wide. I feel lucky to have grown up with the freedom to explore the natural world around me. I truly believe the human spirit is grounded in nature, making a connection to the natural world important in personal development. As I grew older, my adventurous and curious spirit of nature shifted to non-natural things and my attention was taken from nature. Recently, I traveled to Paris, France and Geneva, Switzerland on a global health study abroad program and my naturalized spirit was resurrected. Being my first time in Europe I had no idea what to expect, or what I was going to see. This trip introduced me to foreign landscapes I was unfamiliar with, and had a lasting impact on my spirit and personal interpretation of the world.
Our first stop was in Paris, France. My first impressions of Paris were much like that at home in Charleston, the city was congested with people, pollution, and a number of humanitarian factors affecting the natural world there. This all changed as I explored the French city. From contemporary parks and French formal gardens to pockets of greenery and bucolic districts, the Greater Paris Metropolis boasts an extraordinary variety of green spaces where you can enjoy a peaceful escape in the midst of nature. With no cellular service, all I had was my mind, body, and eye sight. We explored historic monuments and adored the historic architecture that embodies Paris. As days went on my appreciation for the nature here changed significantly, the people moved, lived, and interacted different with nature. There wasn’t litter lining the streets, the air was clean and breathable, and for the first time in a long time, I had that feeling I had when I was just a kid exploring the forests of New Jersey. The Mediterranean Sea breeze and crisp mountain air was unlike no other. But I would soon discover Paris was just the beginning of my personal change.
After a few days in Paris, we traveled to Geneva, Switzerland. I thought France was beautiful, but when I arrived in Switzerland the Alps lined the skyline and I was in shock to say the least. We traveled to Geneva for a guided tour of the World Health Organization Headquarters for a lesson on global health. Apart from that, Geneva had taken my heart. The cleanest, most spectacular sights that no camera could capture were home to Geneva. The most memorable natural aspects were when we traveled down to the water front, giving some of the most amazing sights an individual can witness. The natural world was so genuine here, and my spirit was lifted and changed forever. I’m forever thankful for my opportunity to travel to these places during Spring Break of 2018 and can honestly say that I feel transformed and connected with nature more than I ever have in my life.
A quote from David Attenborough summarizes my feelings and interpretation of the natural world: “The ingenuity with which we continue to reshape the surface of our planet is very striking, but it’s also sobering. It reminds me of just how easy it is for us to lose our connection with the natural world. Yet it’s on this connection that the future of both humanity and of the natural world will depend. It’s surely our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home, not just for us, but for all life on Earth.” This world is not just a home to us, but to all life on Earth. My study abroad experience is something I will cherish and share with everyone. I encourage everyone to get outside, whether across seas, or right here in your own backyard. Connecting with the natural world not only gives you perspective on nature but has a lasting impact on your personal growth in my opinion. Although a camera was not enough to capture these landscapes, below are some photos I took on my time abroad in Europe.. Enjoy!
Awesome post. I think it’s awesome to see how CofC administered this program and see how it not only relates to global health, but this class as well. Seeing how different cultures interact with and treat nature hopefully sheds some light onto how we can treat our environment better back home.
I was also lucky enough to have grown up surrounded by the woods and as a kid I spent most of my time in them with my friends just running around. It makes me think about how only on rare occassions I am able to spend my days outside instead of in a building. Also, Europe seems to have a more passsionate and connencted relationship to nature compared to our culture.
I`m so happy you were able to have this experience, Robert! Thank-you for taking us on your journey with you with your vivid descriptions.