My first night out in Lugano, Switzerland, I accidently ended up at a random faculty dinner party, bought 15 Swiss Francs worth of non-alcoholic beer and had to hitch a ride home from a stranger. While I’ll spare you the details, this escapade represents what I’ve learned in Europe. That is, you’re going to screw up.
From my hefty experience of screwing up, it comes in two forms. One makes you look like a fool, while the other a dick.
Exhibit A: I headed to Milan late one night to meet a few friends before journeying to Budapest the next morning. I approached the automatic ticketing machines that are more complicated than StudentCenter and naturally purchased the wrong train ticket. The ticket wasn’t exchangeable, so I found myself stranded on the Swiss/Italian border.
The next (and last) train for Milan was leaving in five minutes. It cost 15 Swiss Francs, but I had only 12 Swiss Francs and one lone Euro. Of course, the automatic ticket dispensers took this opportunity to reject both my credit and debit cards.
This meant kicking not into casual, but extreme beggar mode. I sprinted from person to person attempting — in a language they didn’t understand — to exchange one Euro for three Swiss Francs (not even close to the exchange rate). With the train arriving in three minutes, I found one man who agreed as long as I promised not to hit him up for more change when he opened his wallet.
Sweating, I quickly purchased the ticket, hopped on the train and let that foolish feeling turn over in my stomach.
Exhibit B: I entered one of Switzerland’s famous banks and tried to argue that their ATM machine stole $500 from my account (I eventually realized this was completely wrong).
While a logical explanation for the mix-up exists, I still haven’t been able to explain it without sounding like a dick. The confusion involves a sneaky post office machine, a miscommunication with my parents and a polite lady at a train station whose lack of English led her to misleadingly nod at everything I asked.
Have I screwed up a lot this semester? Absolutely. And in retrospect, I’ve loved every minute. It’s been my most hectic semester, but also my most memorable. And in college — where time flies by too quickly — that’s about as much as I can ask for.
Kyle W is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He may be reached at email@example.com . Notes from Abroad: Culture Shock appears on Wednesdays.