Lauren Sundby is a student at Drake University and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler at Cardiff University in Wales in 2015.
I am somewhat of a collector. My mother tends to disagree and side more with the term “hoarder,” but formal classification aside, I am an accumulator of things.
As someone with this natural tendency to hold on to stuff, after six months in Europe I came home with two suitcases that were definitely over their allotted weight limits. And while I had the desire to hold on to as many of the things I came across as possible, one of the most abundant items that filled my pockets were ticket stubs.
Countless souvenirs from shows, trains, buses, museums, castles, and other tourist attractions… So many so that I filled an entire scrapbook with these little scraps of paper.
During my semester abroad at Cardiff University in Cardiff, Wales I collected a wide variety of ticket stubs, and these are their stories.
I suppose I should start with my plane ticket, as it was the ticket that started it all. That fateful Thursday night was not without a few tears, a lot of anxiety, and a seemingly endless string of text messages between myself and friends that were already in the UK. This ticket represents fear. A lot of fear. But it also represents the opening of the door to a world I had only dreamed about for the better part of a decade. I look at this and see a terrified me at the airport alone for the first time in her life, with no idea of what the other side of the Atlantic Ocean had in store.
You’ll recognize these guys if you’ve ever ridden a train in the United Kingdom, they are the bright orange and green rectangles that will get you anywhere in the country at a moment’s notice. I have a pretty substantial stack of these things from all of my various wanderings around Wales and England, but I think there are two specifically that I find most important.
First, is my very first train ticket, not only of that semester, but also of my life. On my 20th birthday we set off from London Paddington Station after program orientation to Cardiff, where we would be living for the next 6 months. It was on this train that a vacation became a reality.
We were on our way to our new home. This was our transition from London tourist to Cardiff University student, and I could not have been more excited!
This is a fun one. A few months before we even left the United States, my friend Shelbie and I decided that it would be awesome to be able to go to The Brit Awards, essentially the British equivalent of the Grammy’s, while we were abroad. I wasn’t sure I would be able to go seeing as they are always on a Wednesday, and I wouldn’t know my class schedule until I got there. But, in order to bypass a potential ticket sell-out, we went ahead and purchased our tickets a month before we would even depart, despite any attendance uncertainty, just hoping that we would be able to make it work.
And make it work we did. In the middle of a school week, we got all fancy and walked the red carpet at an award show. That morning I gave a massive presentation in one of my classes, and that night I was in the same room as dozens of A-list celebrities. We got to see Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, Madonna (who fell on stage) and Kanye, amongst others, perform on one of Britain’s biggest stages. And let’s just say, it was amazing.
Paris is one of those dream travel locations. The city of lights and love, and all I wanted to do was enjoy the beauty of it. However, despite my enthusiasm, I had a series of unfortunate encounters during my time in this city that rather dampened my experience. It seems fitting that for a trip riddled with unexpected events, that my favorite part was our time spent visiting the last place I would expect to be my favorite; the millions of bones buried under the city.
Visiting the Paris catacombs was never something on the top of my to-do list, but doing so was probably one of the most unique and interesting things I have ever done. It was incredibly macabre, but wonderful at the same time. I walked around thinking about the thousands of bodies, and how each one of them had a life, a family, and a story. It was like being in the world’s biggest library filled with books you could never read. I was surrounded not by bones, but by the tales of Parisians past.
I think I’ll end with one of my very favorite tickets. This is my ticket for the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, which is a tour of the actual sets, props, and costumes from the Harry Potter films. For anybody that may not know me, I am a massive Harry Potter fan, and have been since I was about 8. I had been waiting for a chance to visit this studio since it opened in 2012.
Immediately upon our arrival we were told that there had been past visitors who spend over 10 hours in the exhibits; I was in disbelief. However, after the 5 hours that we spend wandering the halls of Hogwarts (quite literally), I was in complete understanding. It was probably the closest I’ll ever come to going to Hogwarts, and it was one of the most wonderful things I have ever had the opportunity to do.
I suppose I should stop here to stop myself for rambling on for days, but those are just a few of my favorites from the pile of tickets that I have. These fragmented remnants of adventures past are tangible proof of the amazing things that I had the opportunity to do. As the perfect souvenirs from the trip of a lifetime, these tickets represent some of the most formative months of my life, months in which I learned how to be truly independent and spontaneous, and how to experience cultures completely different from my own.
Each ticket required it’s own journey, with it’s own challenges and it’s own rewards. I can look back at my ticket to the catacombs not only with the fondness of the experience itself, but with the satisfaction of knowing that to get there I had to learn how to navigate the Parisian transport system in French, a language that I knew maybe 10 words of. Or if I think about my ticket to The Brits, I have the fond memories of walking a red carpet, but also remember that that very same day, I had given a killer presentation in my British Television class on a TV network that I didn’t even have access to a few weeks previous.
These are scraps of paper that spark not only memories of a single moment, but of all the countless things I accomplished during my semester abroad.