21st birthday
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
By Allison Grier (BBA20)

I spent my 21st birthday in Venice, Italy. Before leaving for my study abroad program, many of my friends and family asked me if I was sad I wouldn’t be spending my 21st in the U.S. considering turning 21 is celebrated much differently in America than in Europe. I appreciated their thought; however, I was more than happy to be celebrating by exploring and immersing myself in a new culture.

Friday night was spent busing, training, and searching, and finally eating. The group I was traveling with decided after dinner to visit the local bars near the city’s academic square so that we could meet locals closer to our age. This was not before our waiter at the restaurant warned us of the high tide scheduled to flow into the city streets in the next half-hour. To our surprise, the waiter was right! Stepping out of the restaurant we could see the Grand Canal overflowing the streets of Venice. Vendors were selling rain boots to visitors and tourists as they tried to maneuver around the large puddles of water. We eventually bought the boots, afraid that later we would not make it back to our AirBnB without our shoes and pants getting completely soaked.

The next day we woke up early to catch a gondola ride. Prior to our departure, we enjoyed cappuccinos and pastries in a bar that had half a foot of water standing in it. The gondola ride was scenic as we took in the Venice neighborhoods, and our gondoliers pointed out significant buildings. After the gondola ride, we headed toward the Rialto Bridge and Saint Mark’s Basilica. We enjoyed a seafood lunch near the bridge as well as window shopping, including a visit to the Louis Vuitton store. This store was extraordinary, including one of four art exhibits in the world provided by the Louis Vuitton Foundation located in Paris. Every month, the store offers a free art exhibit to the public. We stepped into Saint Mark’s Basilica to see breathtaking architecture. After Saint Mark’s we visited Saint Mark’s Campanile, a tower located across from the basilica. Tears filled my eyes as I took in the spectacular view of the city and at the realization I would be 21 in just a few short hours.

That night I dressed up and we all went to dinner. The whole restaurant sang happy birthday to me and I couldn’t have been happier. Despite overpaying for fish (it was 7 Euro per 100 grams and not the whole fish!) and missing my family and friends from home, my 21st in Venice was the best birthday I could remember. 

If you're interested in other first person perspectives from Tippie students studying abroad, check out our Instagram Story "Q&A" highlight.