Nap in Las Vegas, wake up in London

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By Raven Romero

Most of us who were born in Las Vegas never leave the area. Trips to Albuquerque and Denver normally shape the edge of the world we live in. But I have discovered that places like Mexico, Europe and Japan are not that far away and you should take advantage. Start finding out about the programs with your counselor at school. He or she can show you programs that help you experience Washington, D.C., for week-long seminar or live with a family in Denmark. Rotary and People to People Student Ambassador have international exchange programs.

As for me, traveling to Europe for a month changed me. Not so much to the point where I was craving fish and chips at every meal and speaking with a British accent, but enough so that I looked at things differently in life. I'd always fantasized the possibility of going to college out of the country, and most certainly out of the state.

Homesickness is an emotion I felt my second week away from Las Vegas and it helped determine my decision that along the lines of college, I probably didn't want to cross the borders of Texas, Colorado, and California. Don't get me wrong, though, the trip was amazing and given the chance, I would do it again in an instant. Who knowseemaybe I will.

Being chosen to represent the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch on a touring team that would travel around the United Kingdom was a dream come true. My first week was spent in Texas where I trained at Newk's tennis ranch and got to know the seven other girls and eight boys chosen for the touring team. The getting-to-know-each-other activities consisted of going on a hayride down the highway, eating watermelon in the woods, dancing in the late night hours, and repeatedly introducing ourselves.

The second week was spent in Wimbledon, on the outskirts of London. We left out belongings at a house owned by Lisa, a woman who cooked us breakfast and called us "American Bastards" whenever she had too much to drink. She was kind enough to do our laundry before we left and had hung our clothing around the house to dry, to some people's embarrassment. I was looking for my jeans, which were nowhere to be found and approached her, asking, "Do you know where my pants might be?" She quickly held up some brightly colored underwear and I realized that I needed to freshen up on my British slang. We spent only a few nights at her house, though, because we were usually queuing, which is camping out overnight in order to get good seats at Wimbledon for a reasonable price.

Queuing wasn't the best experience of my trip. A combination of jet lag and trying to put up a tent in freezing cold rain didn't leave me or any of the others in the most chipper of moods. Neither did waking up at five in the morning to move in a slow line for tickets or taking an icy shower because you were too slow to "shotgun" the first or second one. Sitting in the second row on Court One when Andy Roddick or Maria Sharapova waked out made it all worth it, though.

The week was spent between eating strawberries and cream, wandering around Wimbledon trying to get a glimpse of a tennis pro, and shopping at Piccadilly Square, the Times Square of London.

It was after we had spent an entire day there that we found out a bomb was supposed to have gone off, in the exact area where we had probably walked by more than once. We New Mexicans hear about bombs in London all the time, but I had never realized what a big deal it was until it was my life that was threatened.

We took a train to Edinburgh, Scotland, where we played our first tournament hours after arriving. This gave us a chance to socialize with other young tennis players from around the United Kingdom. Everyone was an excellent player and welcoming to us Americans. I had a friendly argument with a girl after I had ordered a yogurt from the caf. "Why do you call it YOgurt?" She asked, doing a good impression of an American accent. "It's YAHgert," she insisted. Our accents weren't the only cause of misconceptions. After asking where the restrooms were, and receiving strange looks in return, I resorted to asking for the toilets instead.

Our final destination was in Aberdeen. To our joyous surprise, the weather had improved, and we hardly needed our umbrellas anymore. Everyone did well in the tournament and most of us played up until the last day, a big improvement from the first one. I made it a point to walk about a mile to an Internet caf and bookstore every day with a friend or two. I always ordered a hot chocolate and a ham and cheese Panini, and then walked back just in time for my next match.

In retrospect, the world is much smaller than one would think. You can go to sleep in Las Vegas and wake up on the other side of the world.

Raven Romero , a Robertson High School senior, is an intern with the Las Vegas Optic. She can be reached at she can be reached at