The grand tour. The tour was grand, indeed. In fact, it was grand, spectacular, amazing, wonderful, and all of the other great adjectives.

This trip was my first time out of the Southeastern US. I had never flown alone before. Or been in a non-English speaking country. It was a big step for me as an individual. I will never forget giving my father a side hug and then running into the airport to bawl my eyes out. I felt like I had made an awful decision to leave my family and go abroad. But I got on the plane anyways.

Once the tour started, we stayed on the go at all times. We never slowed down. We woke up at 6 AM and were out past midnight. We were on bus after bus, train after train, metros, TJV’s, and in and out of hotels. The first five days of the trip are such a blur for me.  The fast pace was a great distraction from the fact that I missed my family.

YA’LL. We saw some of the most beautiful gardens on the planet. We witnessed the changes of garden history and architecture over hundreds of years- in only a couple of days. We were able to see how gardens represented wealth and power, how nature was controlled, nature at its most natural state, and how gardens evolved into representing what is meaningful to the owner. I have dreamt of the gardens my entire life, and I never thought I would see them in person. I think the best part of it all was seeing all of this with Dr. Smalley. He is so full of knowledge, wisdom, and passion. He really encourages you to appreciate each little detail.

For me, I do not enjoy art and history as much as I enjoy gardens. Dr. Smalley’s passion of how all of it is connected really helped me admire it all. We were able to see some very famous paintings, like the Mona Lisa, and other pieces that altered the way gardens were designed.

This is a trip I will never forget. I was scared to death. Now, I would go back in a heart beat. If you are considering studying abroad, I encourage you to do it. I promise it will be scary, but you will grow so much while you are away. You will not regret it.

This photo is from Iford Manor.