While I am no expert on all things European, I am an expert on how Europe has impacted me.
I have had the privilege to live on this continent for over two months now: exploring several countries including Portugal, Morocco (Africa) and, most recently, France.
During my stay in Paris, I fell more in love with the city every passing minute. It was beautiful, the croissants were fantastic and the people were as helpful as they could be.
When I first stepped off of the plane and into the airport, the first thing I saw was men in their military uniforms wielding huge guns. This struck me as intimidating, but I was of course aware that such precautions should be taken in any city.
We spent the weekend eating, laughing and exploring. Everywhere we went, there were these same guards, gripping tightly to these same giant weapons. It made me feel nervous and safe at the same time. When it came time for us to head home, we had some difficulty parting with our newfound love and swore we would make it back before we turned 30.
It has now been less than two weeks since returning from Paris, and the thought of these attacks makes me shudder in all of the worst ways possible.
I was first informed of the news when I received an email from my dad back in the states.
The email read, “I guess I’m just a paranoid dad, right?” The context of this email comes from the fact that my dad had some anxiety about letting me spend a semester away from home, knowing that ISIS was not quite under control. I had missed the first notification I received on my phone from ESPN while spending time with a Spanish friend.
I was confused by the email from my dad and promptly checked CNN for the information.
My heart sank immediately. The beautiful city that I had felt so connected to while I was there was in such terror and innocent people were being treated so unfairly.
I ran next door to my friend’s room and asked them if they had heard.
I received several messages from family members and friends in the states, checking to be sure that I was well and safe.
In America, the news was received around 6 p.m. where the majority of my family and friends were.
I had several classmates from my Spanish University spending time in Paris this weekend.
I sent them messages, checking in and making sure that they were safe. Thankfully, they all got back to me with positive responses.
I had trouble falling asleep Friday night with the thoughts of the city and its people in my head.
Saturday I woke up with a strange feeling. It finally hit me how close I am really am to Paris.
I am sharing a continent with them, and we are feeling the ripple effect of this tragedy in Southern Spain.
This feeling continued throughout the day Saturday, wondering how far all of this will go before it is over.
I finally was able to talk to my family Saturday evening, each member telling me to be vigilant and stick with my friends.
When planning my study abroad trip, I of course had some worries about such acts of terror, but I never thought that it would hit so close to home after only having been here for a short amount of time.
I can confidently say that Europe feels like home.
And with a heavy heart, I am thinking of Paris and its innocent people.
Mary Curtin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org