Cindy Hoang – Europe (2014) †

There are 196 countries in the world. 196 pieces of land that is waiting to be explored. Most of those places have something beautiful to offer, whether it’s food, landscape, or culture. I, sadly, have only experience traveled to four countries- Mexico, Jamaica, Vietnam and Thailand. Each place is very unique in its own way and the memories I have from each place is special. This summer, I am hoping to add five more countries to my list – England, France, Spain, and Belgium. I hope this trip will put me at a globetrotter status.

It has been almost two years since my volunteer trip to Vietnam and Thailand and I can still remember how happy and excited I was every day. So when it came time for me to plan another trip, it took a lot of time and contemplating. There are so many places that I have not been to and would love to visit. South America, some parts of Eastern Europe, and most of Asia is great for a student on a budget. However, my last trip consisted of volunteering at a home for the elderly and blind in Vietnam so I wanted to switch it up a little bit by going to cities to admire some great architecture and art. Unfortunately, western European countries are not exactly known to be student budget friendly. However, a series of unexpected events these past few months would cause Europe to be affordable for me and then it was confirmed – I am going to Europe this summer.

My mother was born in Vietnam during the war and her father was a French soldier. He got killed in the war and my mother, unfortunately, never got to meet him. My grandmother refused to talk about him because it brought her a lot of pain. I tried to get a name from her for several years but eventually gave up because I saw how hard it was for her to talk about it. One day out of the blue, my grandmother told me his name. She said that she was deeply in love with him and after she got pregnant, she found out that he had a family back in France. She was very ashamed because in her culture at the time, to become pregnant without being married is a societal embarrassment. I took that name and thanks to the Internet, I found his granddaughter on Facebook. I am not sure what to call her but I know she is family. She is close to my age, lives in Paris, and would love to meet me. Her mother and grandmother are not interested in meeting me though as I am from the “other family”. I am hoping that she and I can become friends despite our unusual family history when I visit Paris.

When I brought up Paris to my boyfriend, he mentioned that he has an uncle that lives there. He is in his 60’s and was supposed to pass away decades ago from a terminal disease. While his health has deteriorated and he has gone blind recently, his spirit and personality seems to keep him going from what I have heard about him. I would like to meet him before he passes away. After a conversation with my boyfriend, his uncle offered for us to stay with him in his apartment in exchange for helping him with a few things while his usual caretaker is away on vacation. The tasks would be relatively small such as taking him to the doctor once a week and going grocery shopping for him. While I would have loved to meet him and would have gladly help him anyways, it’s a very generous offer from him and will immensely help with costs.

Europe is a very popular vacation destination and even though I have not been yet, I can certainly see why. The architect, museums, food, and history are just some of the reasons why I would love to go. I have always been fascinated with history and art and I believe Europe has some of the best of both. I searched for hours and dozens of combinations for flights for Europe, but the best combination I have found is $1055, flying into Paris and departing from Barcelona. After arriving in Paris, I will spend about five days seeing the classic Parisian sights such as the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, the catacombs, and the Versailles Palace to name a few. I plan on going to one or two museums or attractions a day to be able to fully enjoy them versus running around town and missing the Parisian city lifestyle. After some research, I have found out that certain dates that I will be there, some museums such as the Louvre and the Modern Art Museum will be free. I also plan to use Paris as a main hub where I come back to sleep to save some money when I visit small towns a few hours away.

After one full week in Paris, I plan on taking the Eurostar to London for 3 days, 2 nights and will be staying with a friend that I have hosted in Los Angeles. I will see the Buckingham Palace, House of Parliament, Big Ben, some other sights but most important, I will head to Abbey Road to pay tribute to one of the best bands ever, the Beatles. After arriving back to Paris for a good night sleep, I will then head to Belgium by train and spend approximately four days between Bruges and Brussels. When I head back to Paris to say my “good byes” and “thank yous” to my long distance relative, my boyfriend’s uncle, and the City of Lights, I will take the train to Barcelona where I will spend about a week marveling at the excellent Gaudi and Montaner architecture. I hope to put my six years of Spanish lessons to some use!

My trip will be approximately 16 days, starting May 30th and ending June 15th, just in time for summer school to start. I believe this will give me a sufficient amount of time to see the main sights without rushing. Of course, I’m sure I could stay for months in Europe, but perhaps another trip in the distant future. I am estimating that the total amount of costs is $4383 but of course, that number might fluctuate a bit. I currently have about $3,000 but expect to come up with the remaining costs by the end of the semester.

With places to stay in Paris and London and a sale on the Eurorail Global Pass that allows me to take the train to almost everywhere in Europe, I am saving quite a lot of money. I have been dog sitting, babysitting, and cooking for other people for the past two years to save for this trip. Between a full load of coursework at school (and rocking the grades if I may add), two internships this semester, and volunteering at a domestic violence shelter for the past year, I am looking forward to Europe. This grant would help me out greatly with costs and would help pave the way for me to become the globetrotter that I have always dreamed of becoming. Thank you so much for the opportunity to even be able to apply for this grant and I promise that if I receive the grant, it would be put to an amazing cause.

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