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Summer Abroad - 2

After landing in St. Petersburg, Russia, we checked into the hotel and decided to take a couple of days to just rest and sight see. We arrived around suppertime, so several of us went to a restaurant nearby to eat and then decided to hit the pool at the hotel. While sitting in a lounge chair, my phone started ringing.

“Hey Stacy,” I answered the phone after seeing her name come across the screen.

“Hi Sarah, how are you? I haven’t heard from you in a while and I wanted to see how things are going,” she said.

“Oh my God Stacy, things have been amazing. I can’t believe everything I’ve gotten to see and experience so far.”

“That sounds wonderful sis. Maybe someday the two of us can travel together somewhere.”

“I’d really like that and if we come back to Europe, there are so many places I want to take you. If you think Chicago is huge, wait until you see Paris,” I chuckled over the phone. “So how are you Stace? How is the baby?”

“I’m feeling pretty good, other than the fact that I have to pee all the time and I sleep more than I ever have before. The baby is doing really well, in fact, we just had our 20 week ultrasound and she is right where she needs to be.”

“She? As in, she’s a girl?” I asked excitedly.

“Yes, she is a girl. You are going to have a niece,” Stacy laughed.

“That is so cool Stacy, I can’t wait to meet her.”

“We can’t either. I think Jake is more excited than I am that we are having a daughter. I was sure he wanted a boy more.”

“She’ll have him wrapped around her little finger, just like we have Dad,” I laughed. No matter how old I am, I think I will always have Dad wrapped up.

“She certainly will,” Stacy chuckled along with me.

“Did you tell Mom and Dad yet?”

“Yeah, I called them just before calling you to give them the news. They told me you should have been arriving in Russia today, but I wasn’t sure what time it actually was.”

“It’s about 9:00 or so at night, but we are sitting out by the pool right now just relaxing this evening. Tomorrow we are just hanging around the hotel before resuming our tour.”

“Well you have fun and be sure to send pictures when you can. I’ve enjoyed getting the post cards you’ve been sending.”

“I will and I have more to mail out shortly. Love you. You take care of yourself and my niece and give Jake a hug from me.”

“I love you too Sarah and I’ll pass that hug on. Bye sis!”

“Bye Stace!” We hung up the phone.

“What’s got you so excited over here?” Justin came up sitting beside me.

“My sister just told me that she is having a baby girl,” I said looking at him. Justin just finished his sophomore year and has become a good friend over the last several weeks.

“Oh, that’s cool,” he said. “You going to join us in the pool?”

I shook my head. “No, not tonight. I just want to relax right here.”

“OK,” he said and cannon-balled into the pool splashing me in the process. As he resurfaced, he looked at me and laughed as I shook the water off of me giving him a disapproving look.

A short time later, I went back to the room and got ready for bed. The girls came in a bit later and we all settled in for the night. We didn’t have to be up early tomorrow, so I planned on sleeping as long as I could.

Nikki woke us all up much earlier than we wanted by screaming into her phone. Apparently, she found out that her boyfriend back home was caught cheating on her by another friend. We spent the next who knows how many minutes listening to her yelling and crying on the phone and when she finished the call, she threw herself onto our bed and screamed into her pillow.

“Nikki, no man is worth crying over,” Jodi came up and sat next to her. “Don’t let him bring you down while you are here.”

“He promised…he promised he would wait for me,” she sobbed.

“They all promise to wait, but most often they don’t. Come on, get dressed…we are all going out.” Bethany said as she grabbed her clothes. Bethany, like me, broke up with her boyfriend earlier in the year because he wanted to experience new things.

We got dressed, grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel and walked around the area we were staying in. We went shopping, which is the best thing to do when a girl is upset and took pictures of each other trying on some authentic Russian clothing.

After lunch, we went back to the hotel and headed to the pool since the weather was gorgeous. We met up with the guys and the other girls and spent the afternoon there. That evening, we met with the Jennings to discuss the plans for the next week. I have to give them credit at how organized they were on this trip.

Over the week, we visited the State Museum of Theatre and Music which housed over 3,000 artifacts. We studied the music of Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and others. I play the violin and piano, but could only dream of playing some of their music.

We went to the Chamber Opera and watched a Russian opera. We went a local ballet performance of “Swan Lake” and even though it was only July, we got to watch a performance of “The Nutcracker Suite” at another ballet house. We attended a concert of the Academic Philharmonia, which was another fantastic orchestra.

We attended a local festival and learned some Russian folk songs and dances. A couple of the dances were the Khorovod, which is a popular circle dance and the Kalinka, which is considered an icon of Russian folk dancing. We all tried to dance like some of the men with the squats and kicks and split jumps, but we looked pretty foolish and left it to the professionals.

We visited other museums and even toured some royal houses that once belonged to the czars. We walked through various parks and along the seafront. It was a different experience from what most of us were used to, but it was great to see how they lived and immerse in their culture.

From Russia, we headed over to Norway for a few days to visit a city called Bergen. This city was home to Edvard Grieg who wrote “Peer Gynt”. We saw several statues of Grieg and his estate called Troldhaugen Estate. We learned about the Scandinavian culture and even tried some authentic food.

From Norway, we went back to the mainland to visit Copenhagen, Denmark. We learned about Hans Christian Anderson, who was an author who wrote several children’s stories that have been turned into movies or musicals. One of my favorites is “The Little Mermaid” and another is “The Snow Queen.”

We then went down to the Netherlands and stayed in Amsterdam. We visited the Anne Frank House and learned more about World War II and history of the Holocaust. It was pretty emotional on most of us and gave us the chills to tour the small rooms in the hidden room. While we were in Amsterdam, there was a music festival with several bands that we got tickets to attend and spent the evening singing and dancing.


Only three and a half weeks left of the trip, and we were heading off to the United Kingdom. We planned to start in London, move up to Liverpool, then up to Scotland and ending in Ireland.

After arriving at Heathrow Airport, we gathered our bags and jumped on a double-decker bus and headed to our hotel. We sat in the top with an open roof and were in awe of everything we passed: Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and much, much more.

We settled into our hotel, had dinner and went for a walk. We passed a club playing some rock music and we went in. “Now this is music,” Justin said as we entered and Kenny agreed pushing his way through the crowd.

“I’m going up to the bar to get some drinks, what does everyone want?” Angie, one of older girls asked us.

“I’ll go with you,” I said, to help carry the drinks.

We ended up ordering a couple pitchers of beer with twelve glasses and took them back to a table the others found. We poured each one a glass full and toasted our night out.

As the night went on, we found ourselves out on the dance floor and letting loose. While Nikki, Jodi and I were dancing, I felt someone grab my waist from behind and start dancing with me. A couple other guys did the same to Nikki and Jodi, but instead of pushing them away, we danced with them and flirted with them throughout the evening.

“My name is Brad,” the guy dancing with me said as we took a breather.

“I’m Sarah,” I said and offered my hand for a shake, which he accepted.

“Where are you from? You don’t sound like you’re English.” he asked.

“I’m not, I’m from the States,” I replied. “Where are you from?”

“New York,” he answered, “You?”

“North Dakota,” I said. “I come all the way across the ocean and end up dancing with another American,” I laughed a little, “what are the odds?”

“No kidding,” he laughed along with me. “You here long?”

“A few weeks. We head back at the end of August, and you?”

“Couple of weeks.”

“Are you with friends or family?”

“Friends and you?”

“I’m actually here for school. We are studying abroad for the summer and we are nearing the end of the program.”

“Really? What are you studying?”

“Music history,” I answered. “We started in Paris and went all over Europe and now we are here.”

“That sounds pretty cool. Do you play anything?”

I nodded, “I play piano, violin, guitar and sing a little.”

“Wow, I play the radio. Does that count?” he chuckled.

I shook my head and laughed, “I suppose it’s something.”

“Can I get you something to drink?”

“Sure, whatever you are getting, I’ll have the same.” He gave me a smirk and went up to the bar to place the order.

“Who’s the hottie?” Bethany came up behind me.

“His name is Brad and he’s from New York,” I answered her.

“Make sure you get his number, he looks like he’s into you.”

“Yeah right,” I gave her a look.

“I’m serious,” she replied. “Take a chance, what can it hurt right?”

“It’s not like I’ll ever see him again.”

“That’s what the phone number is for,” she said as she walked back to our group as I turned bright red.

“Here you go,” Brad said as he handed me a drink and stood next to me leaning against a table.

“Thanks, what is it?” I asked.

“It’s called a Dark and Stormy. It’s made from Dark Rum and Ginger Beer,” he answered. “It’s a popular drink here I was told.”

“Cheers,” I said while clinking my glass against his and took a drink.

“Cheers,” he said and he did the same. “It’s not bad.” I nodded in agreement.

“So was that one of your classmates?” Brad asked nodding toward Bethany.

I followed his gaze and nodded my head, “Yeah, that’s Bethany; she’s one of my roommates on the trip.”

“What did she say to you to get you all red?” he asked and I blushed again.

“Nothing,” I answered.

“Nothing doesn’t make one blush,” he smirked. “Come on, what did she say?”

“She told me to get your number,” I answered and laughed nervously.

“That’s all? Give me your phone.”

“What?” I looked over towards Bethany and she gave me a thumbs up.

“Give me your phone, and I’ll give you my number,” he said. I opened my phone and handed it to him. He added his name and number, and then took a photo and saved it to my phone, then called his own phone. After saving my number and my name, he took my picture and gave me my phone back. “There, now you have mine and I have yours.”

“Thanks,” I said, putting my phone back in my purse. I took another drink and we talked a little more.

“Come on, let’s get back out there,” he nodded to the dance floor.

I got up and followed him to the dance floor and we danced for another hour or so. The girls and his friends eventually joined us once again.

“Nikki, Sarah…it looks like they are ready to head back to the hotel,” Jodi shouted looking over at the rest of the group. We nodded our heads and headed back to the table.

I turned around to face Brad, “Thank you Brad for tonight, I had a lot of fun,” I said to him.

“I did too. It was a pleasure meeting you,” he bowed a little and I laughed.

“You as well. Have a great night and maybe our paths will cross again someday,” I said giving him a hug. He hugged me back and waved goodbye as we walked out of the club.

“Looks like a few of you had a little fun tonight,” Justin said as we headed back to the hotel.

Nikki, Jodi and I looked at each other and smiled. “I guess you could say that,” Jodi answered and Justin rolled his eyes.

We got back to the hotel and we went off to our rooms and turned in for the night. I knew I drank too much and I would feel it in the morning, but at least we didn’t have much planned for the day.

Most of our time in London was learning more about folk music that began in England and moved over to the new world after settlers arrived and started passing down through the generations. We also talked about music of the British Invasion of the ’60s and ’70s in more modern times like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, David Bowie and many more.

We toured Buckingham Palace one day, and saw the Tower of London and Big Ben. The Queen wasn’t in town at this time, but we did learn a little bit about the royal family and their history. We went on the London Eye that overlooked London and walked along the bank of the River Thames.

We had a lot of free time, which we, of course, had to go shopping to pick up more souvenirs, new clothes and post cards to send back home. We spent some time at the hotel relaxing and most of the girls went to the spa to get manis and pedis and to the salon to get our hair done.

After leaving London, we took a long bus ride up to Liverpool to visit the home of the Beatles. We visited some of the pubs they played at in their early days, went to their museum and we took turns walking down Abbey Road. We also visited the Royal Albert Dock, Victoria Gallery and Museum and the Merseyside Maritime Museum.

We were down to the last week and a half of our summer as we headed to Scotland for a few days. We toured various castles and old churches; tried a round of golf; attempted to learn highland dancing; and enjoyed listening to Scottish folk tunes which were played on the bagpipes and drums.

Lastly, we headed to Dublin, Ireland where we were going to spend the last days of our trip. Like in Scotland, we learned a lot of folk music and studied various instruments often used in Irish music including drums, pipes and harps to name a few.

We visited several Irish pubs and had to try some authentic Irish beer and other drinks. One night, we drank a little too much and several of us joined in some Irish jig dancing. I managed to stay on my feet, but not all were so lucky. Before we ended the trip, we did get to go a “Lord of the Dance” performance and watch authentic River Dancing.

The night before we left, we all gathered outside and sat under the stars in an open field near the hotel.

“Our time has come to an end,” Mrs. Jennings began. “I hope you each had a wonderful experience and will take what you learned and put it into your continued studies and careers in music.”

We all nodded our heads. “This has been a wonderful experience,” Angie said and we all agreed.

“It’s one thing to study music history by reading books, but it’s entirely a different experience living it and seeing the places that inspired these composers and artists,” I said. “I’m really glad I was able to join this program”

“That’s why we started this summer abroad program,” Dr. Jennings stated. “When I decided I wanted to get my doctorate in music history and philosophy, I knew that to get the most understanding, I needed to see it for myself. Cindy and I took this trip together many years ago and really wanted students to get the opportunity, so we thank each of you for joining us.”

We continued to share our memories of the trip, and what we enjoyed the most or what we may have enjoyed the least. We took more pictures of the group and swapped phone numbers so we could share our pictures once we got back to school.

Dr. and Mrs. Jennings went to turn in for the night when Mrs. Jennings turned around. “We need to leave for the airport by 6:00 in the morning, so I suggest not staying up much longer. Make sure you each do another sweep of your rooms and make sure you have everything together and keep your passports handy.”

We all nodded and got up and followed them back into the hotel. The four of us in our room decided we would all grab a quick shower tonight, so we didn’t have to scramble in the morning.

While I was waiting for my turn, I quick texted my parents to let them know how things were going and that I would see them soon. I also texted Stacy to remind her of our plane’s arrival time since she was picking me up from the airport. The flight would be about eight and a half hours and we would be flying back in time, so we should arrive around 10:30 or so in Chicago.

Once we get back, we will only have a week before school is to resume for the fall semester, so I planned on staying a couple days with Stacy and Jake, and then fly back to Bismarck to spend a few days with Mom and Dad before driving back to Grand Forks.

I made sure everything was packed after taking my shower and made sure my ID, passport, wallet and phone were ready to go in my purse, while my bag was secured and carryon ready to go. I fell asleep and relived my trip through my dreams.

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