I wish I could give a more concise answer. The truth is that they were all my favorite countries for different reasons.
I loved being in Belgium at Christmastime. The Christmas Markets brought so much joy and anticipation to the season. Also, as a self-proclaimed chocoholic, not many places exist on earth that is as conducive to such an addition as Belgium. My friends and I wondered through the chocolate shops shoving everything into our mouths.
Matilda took me home to Sweden with her, and I got to see a Scandinavian blizzard. It was amazing to me as that snow could cover the ground so quickly. I would have been scared for my life riding in the car with anyone else; however, Matilda and her family are Swedish and are used to driving on snow.
When I was in Norway, I got to the Arctic Circle and chased the Northern Lights. I was literally on the top of the world. A local girl named, Oda (Oo-da), showed me around her hometown and took me to a reindeer race. I didn’t understand a single word of Norwegian but there is something about body language that crosses all cultures and people and can be understood perfectly. The reindeer race was one of the most exciting occasions in all of my time abroad.
In Holland, I stayed with family friends and felt the warm sun on my face after months of cold and wet Irish weather. I moved from park bench to park bench soaking up the sun on a warm April afternoon. Rotterdam is a modern city having been rebuilt following great destruction in World War II. Due to Dublin’s height ordinance, which states that buildings can only be so tall, the buildings in Dublin are rather short. In Rotterdam no such ordinance exists, so their buildings shot into the sky. I did not realize how much I missed skyscrapers.
I made a pilgrimage to Israel in May. Those six days in Jerusalem moved me in more ways than I can fully express. It was mind-boggling to stand on the steps at the Temple where Jesus taught. As a Christian girl and a history major roaming the streets of such an ancient city shaped my outlook on today’s world. Not only is Jerusalem an overwhelming moving place but it also offers a wide variety of cuisine. For six days I lived on falafel and shawarma. I would not have had it any other way.
My sister and I traveled to France and Monaco together. She and I took a few day tours that showed us the French Rivera. We put our feet in the Mediterranean Sea, and Payton and I stood outside the famed Monte Carlo Casino. We survived by speaking broken French and asking for croissants to eat.
England not only welcomed me but welcomed my parents and sister as well. It was a wonderful experience to be able to explore London with my family. We got a little lost but had a lot of fun. My sister and I watched the England vs. Italy World Cup match in a pub. That alone was an experience to be held. The English have so many national songs and cheers to root for their footballers (soccer team).
And then there is Ireland. Ireland was the country that I lived in. Ireland was the country that I cried, laughed, and loved in. It was the place I made life-long friends and everlasting memories. The rolling green hills and pebble beaches became a second home. It was perfect.
I was incredibly blessed in my time abroad and cannot for the life of me choose a favorite. They all were my favorite. From Belgium to Israel to Ireland, I loved them all.