The majority of people (myself included) who have plans to travel to such popular and culturally enriched cities usually plan to see all of the most popular tourist destinations. For example, people go to London to see Buckingham Palace, The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, The Tower of London, the London Eye, the British Museum, etc. Newcomers to Paris most likely go to see the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, The Louvre, The Arc de Triumph, etc. These tourists travel far and wide, usually with their husbands, wives, and children to see these attractions, take a few pictures, and then leave pretty fulfilled. Before my trip, seeing these attractions was one of my biggest expectations. The second expectation I had for my IBS seminar was to gain real-world business advice from major company executives, and the third expectation was to earn college credit. Those three opportunities alone were enough to sell me and get me extremely excited for this trip. However, the opportunities and experiences that I did not expect are what really turned my IBS trip into the trip of a lifetime.
Seeing the sights, learning about businesses, and tasting the food alone isn’t what made my trip so amazing; it was the people that I got to experience all these amazing things with. About forty students from colleges all over the United States accompanied me on the trip. I arrived in London already knowing three and came back knowing and being friends with thirty-seven more. The friendliness and inclusiveness of the people that I met on this trip made all of the difference. Out of all the good things that the leaders of IBS planned to make our trip go well, one of the best things they did for us was to assign random roommates. Now I know being assigned random roommates can be a little nerve-racking at first but, right off the bat, this gave me the opportunity to make my first friend on the trip, Sara. Luckily, Sara and I clicked from the very beginning.
Traveling as a group of 40+ people makes it hard to stay together, so every day the large group would naturally split off into smaller groups based on different interests. For example, when there was free time in London the first night, the people who were hungry formed a group to go eat, the people who wanted to shop formed a group to go shop, the people who wanted to go see a musical formed a group and went to the theatre, and the people who wanted to go check out a local pub got together to try the local beers. This worked out perfectly because it gave everyone options. Some people chose to stay with the same people each day, while others chose to hop around. The great thing about it was that the system of small groups was by no means “cliquey” because everyone was open to meeting new friends.
I don’t believe that I’m speaking just for myself when I say that the small experiences of the trip were just as impactful as the big ones, or sometimes even more impactful. I will always remember the beautiful sight of the Eiffel Tower Twinkling at night, but I will also always remember my friend Jake and I jokingly singing a Cardi B song on the train ride back to the hotel and a French man joining in to sing along with us. I will never forget the one of a kind panoramic view of all of London from the London Eye, but I will also never forget the moment of blissful happiness when my friends and I witnessed a couple get engaged on the carrousel right next to us.
However, I may not always remember the exact image of the Crown Jewels because no photographs were allowed, but I will always remember the conversation that my friend Thomas and I had with a Scottish girl while standing in line to see them who just so happened to be our age and have the same name as me. I may not always remember how to navigate “The Tube”, but I will always remember the Bakerloo line and laughing hysterically at my friend Sara who mistakenly called it the Waterloo line right after seeing a portrait of the Battle of Waterloo during our tour at the House of Parliament. I might not remember the name of the pier that my friends walked along on a night out in London, but I’ll always remember how cool it was to find a random ping pong table and play a fun game right on the sky lit water. I probably won’t remember the name of the four-star hotels that we stayed in, but I’ll always remember the fun times my friends shared all bunched into one room during the wee hours of the night. These are just some of the countless memories I made on the trip, and none of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for those unexpected bonds forming.
So, yes, London, Paris, and IBS gave me everything that I expected. I saw the sights that I listed in the beginning (they were all breathtaking by the way), I learned some very useful real-world information from well-accredited speakers about the business world, and I indulged in great-tasting food and drinks. However, the trip would not have been nearly as memorable if it hadn’t been for those unexpected friendships. We truly did arrive as strangers and leave as friends. As a matter of fact, five of us plan to meet in Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day and we still speak to each other every day. It’s pretty safe to say that going on a seminar with IBS will go beyond even your greatest expectations.