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Abigail Miller

To Belgium and Beyond

Shortly after I received my acceptance letter for my study abroad to Belgium, the world was shocked by the bombing of Brussels. The news made my family concerned for my safety; they asked me to reconsider my trip. However, I told them when faced with unpredictable acts of violence we just have to move forward.

After all that worry about terror, the biggest challenge I faced was lack of planning. Arriving in Brussels Airport just after midnight on a Sunday was a mess. There was no help to be found anywhere, so I bought one overpriced train ticket and set out alone into the night.

Growing up in the Midwest, I had never used public transportation before. This made my first train ride in Belgium an extremely frustrating experience. I missed my first stop twice only to learn the doors would have opened if I had just pushed the right button. Somehow, I got off the train and found a bar with a local and two Irish guys who were kind enough to help me get where I was going. Approaching strangers in the dead of night is probably also a bad idea, but luckily they were genuinely kind people.

There were many strangers who took time to help me during my time abroad. The first week in Hasselt, Belgium, I got a lesson from a local who was in stitches watching me try to ride a bike with all my groceries. The people I stayed with in other countries were extremely generous hosts, serving local dishes and giving great tips on where to visit.

While I was at school in Hasselt, I got to work with two students from Spain and Italy for a group exhibition in December. My professors pushed us to work bigger and explore new concepts. The result was a show titled Nichtophobia, or fear of the dark. Our topic was overcoming terror and darkness, so I made a series of paintings with life-size neon figures.

During my time abroad, I slowly adapted to European travel and went on to see places near and far. Through trial and error, I made it through small and large airports, international bus lines, and got a crash course in European geography. Overall, I managed to visit six countries, saw nearly 50 art galleries in major cities like Berlin, London, Lucerne, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Ghent, Basel, and Bruges. I hiked with friends in the Alps, visited castles, saw actual royalty, and learned how to carry almost anything on a bicycle.

While abroad, I learned to appreciate little things like stores which are open on Sundays or past 8 pm, the taste of fresh milk, common water fountains, and the support of all my family and friends. Overall, I'm glad I didn't let fear prevent me from seeing the world and missing out on this amazing transformational experience.

Abigails shoes standing on sidewalk

  • Face Forward

Bike on sidewalk

  • My bike in Hasselt

white art gallery

  • Nictophobia - Fear of the Dark, Fear of Terror

standing against a tree

  • Tree and I in Potsdam, Germany

leaping in air in front of mountains

  • Alpine Leaping

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