Chattanooga women’s soccer junior Abby Nipp traveled Europe this summer and shared her experience with culture shock, World Cup soccer and the many people she met along the way.
Hello everyone! I am writing to share with you some experiences that I had over this past summer.
I spent some time this summer backpacking Western Europe with one of my best friends, Gina Schmid. Over the course of five weeks, we traveled to eight different countries including Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and England.
Additionally, while in France we had the opportunity to see the USWNT play live in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup!
Our adventure started in Southern Germany, in a small town called Lorrach, which is where the Schmid family is originally from. From there we traveled through the Swiss Alps and then into Italy.
We stayed in Tuscany, which is about a 30-minute drive from Florence, where we spent about six days exploring the ancient churches, infamous statue of David, Ponte Vecchio, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and many other notable landmarks.
Next, we took a boat down the coast of Italy to Cinque Terre and got off at a village known as Vernazza, which I would later discover was my favorite place I visited on this trip. Afterwards, we traveled to Bolzano and Caprese, where I saw the birthplace of Michelangelo. From here we went to Hohenschwangau, a town in Southern Germany, where we stayed at the foot of one of King Ludwig III’s castles.
Then, we traveled to Reims, France for the FIFA Women’s World Cup! We attended the round of 16 game of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which was USA vs. Spain. Before the game, I was wearing a Portland shirt, and forward Christen Press tapped forward Tobin Heath on the shoulder and said “Look, that girl is wearing a Portland shirt,” and then pointed at me. I was fan-girling so hard as two of my favorite players on the team acknowledged me.
Attending this game was nothing short of a dream come true as I have idolized many of these athletes since I can remember. Having the opportunity to see women who play at the highest level of my sport on the highest international stage was surreal. Both USA and Spain have phenomenal players on their team and being able to witness their talent firsthand is an experience I will never forget. USA won 2-1, which made this experience even more enjoyable.
After the game, the entire USWNT came to eat dinner at the same restaurant where I was eating. I had the opportunity to give midfielder Allie Long a high-five and accidentally meet retired forward and legend, Abby Wambach, in the bathroom of the restaurant.
I wish I could have watched more World Cup games live, but even watching the World Cup on television was a whole different experience in Europe since France was the host country.
From Reims, we went to Amsterdam, then to Barcelona, Valencia, and London before returning to the states. Each place we traveled to introduced me to a completely different culture.
Staying in hostels was one of the most crucial parts of this experience because it allowed me to meet people from all different parts of the world including Australia, Sweden, Brazil, Singapore, Taiwan, New York, and everything in between. Befriending these people as we explored countries overseas allowed me to immerse myself into the different European cultures while also learning so much about other countries that I hope to someday travel to.
There was often a language barrier between me and people we would meet, but luckily Gina is nearly trilingual, so she served as a translator the majority of this trip. Traveling and exploring unfamiliar places is something that I am extremely passionate about, but without the people that come along with traveling to these new places, my experience would have been incomplete.
Although my European adventure was nothing short of amazing, there were many difficult aspects of this trip. For example, we stayed in hostels in order to meet new people whilst saving money along the way. The first hostel we stayed in was the Flying Pig in Amsterdam. Because this was the first hostel I have ever stayed in, I was not sure what to expect.
My friend and I stayed in a “mixed room of 16,” meaning we shared a room with 15 other males and females. It is safe to say my first night experiencing life in a hostel did not go as planned, as I woke up to an older man touching my feet at 3 a.m. Although this is comical now, it was quite terrifying at the time, and the reason why I am sharing this story with you is to put into perspective that traveling Europe is not as glamorous as everyone makes it out to be.
Along with the difficulties that came with staying in hostels, there were many other culture shocks. Siestas are a REAL thing, the metro/train system can be extremely confusing, Europeans typically stay out late, eating dinner around 9 p.m. and starting their day the next morning around 10 a.m., water is just as expensive as any other beverage, and many more.
Additionally, I walked 8-10 miles nearly every day while I was on this trip, which is something most Americans, including myself, are foreign to.
Overall, my time in Europe has been incredible! I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel and experience eight completely different cultures all within such a short time frame. I fell in love with Europe during my time over there, so returning to the U.S. has been a bit difficult, but I look forward to going back to Europe and exploring more of the beautiful countries it has to offer.
Thank you for reading!