In Their Own Words--Faculty and Staff

In Their Own Words: Faculty and Staff Perspectives

Faculty In Antartica Image

Instructor Lindsey Geary in Antartica

“I sailed around the tip of the Antarctica peninsula on two NSF (National Science Foundation)  research expeditions where we conducted shipboard coring along the Antarctic national shelf. My main responsibility (or many) was to make smear slides for nonnofossils, diatom/radiolarians, and sediment composition. This experience gave me the material and research experience I needed to complete my master’s thesis and to choose a direction with my career. My favorite part of the experience was when we had to physically break through the ice shelf in order to research our coring destination. Words cannot describe the awe and wonderment a person feels when peering out over natural untouched frozen landscape.”

--Lindsey Geary, Instructor, Life Sciences

 

“’Judy…We’re in Ireland!’ I think I whispered that to my friend in every place and every stop we made.”
--Kate Barefoot, Assistant Registrar

 

“Leaving the U.S. and traveling to a third world country, like Viet Nam, gave me a greater appreciation for not only the great blessing our country affords, but a deeper appreciation that people show when their spirits are rich. The Vietnamese love of the things we tend to take for granted like education, hard work, sacrifice, and selflessness makes me feel in one sense it would be great not to have so many possessions that tie me down.

I found it strange to travel from a country that has so much to one that has so little—and that I could become richer by traveling there.”
--George Goerner, Professor, Business


“The textbook study of a foreign language is not the same as its practical application. Ordering a meal you have to pay for in Euros and eat in accordance with German culture (shake hands with everyone at the table before being seated; exchange “guten Appetit!” before taking and using your fork in your left hand even though you are right-handed) changes you. When you swing open your guest house window to watch a herd of sheep cross a modern suburban street a mere fifteen minutes up the hill from a gate built by Romans in 800 B.C., you get more than a scenic view. You gain a fresh perspective.

After traveling abroad, you might not be able to explain exactly how or why you see the world in a new way; you just know that all your senses have been enhanced. At the least, the discovery that cultural contrasts accent the essence of common experience is a lesson large enough to make global travel a value at any cost. “
--Leslie Goerner, Associate Professor, English

 

“Often it is Professor Collen Bolton in Europethe serendipitous encounter with the place you are visiting that makes the whole trip complete. I had spent the better part of two weeks visiting incredible works or art and architecture presented and discussed in the courses that I teach. But it was the last day, taking a chair lift to the island of Capri that took my breath away and made me realize this was the world ruled by the ancient Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. It was the natural beauty and 10 days’ immersion in the culture that helped me to see what inspired the works in the museums. “
--Colleen Bolton, Assistant Professor, Art

 

 

“Of all the times I have been to Italy, I had the most fun with the students of MV in May 2009. We laughed so much. The culture and scenic beauty were a joy as always. However, the enthusiasm of the students was a surprise bonus for me. I saw first hand the excitement foreign travel brings to students when they encounter that which is new and different.”
--Dennis Lee, Professor Emeritus


“Last fall I traveled to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, two emirates in the United Arab Emirates. I found many similarities and differences. One similarity is the technology higher education curriculum is modeled after ours in the U.S.—and in fact, the Soil and Mechanics foundation course textbook used there is the same as the one we use here, one written by MVCC Professor Emeritus David F. McCarthy! One difference is that in the United Arab Emirates, a person must be born into a native tribe to become a citizen—and there is no other way to become a citizen.”
--Frank Przybycien, Professor Emeritus


“Seeing the vitality of Seville, Barcelona, and Madrid is a remarkable experience in itself! Add to Rome, Florence, and Venice, the excitement of college students discovering a new world and of faculty forging new friendships, a trip becomes an unforgettable experience for faculty and students. The trips have been journeys of discovery, enchantment, and fun! The MVCC-sponsored trips have been a great way to be introduced to a country with great tour directors, friendly drivers and local guides, and the company of great students and colleagues.”
--Robert Christman, Associate Professor, Psychology

 

“To live abroad is to feel home in another flavor. I’ve made homes in various parts of the world, but the most significant was going to Cameroon in West Africa. Africa, if you let it, will change your life, and I don’t mean just adding more design or color to your memories. I left Cameroon—I didn’t know then and it’s only dawned upon me now how to call it—as a more sentient human being. What I miss most about Kumbo, the town where I lived, was conversation. There is a method of speaking, usually at an off-license with the glass bottles of soda and beer on the table, the breeze coming in from the dusty road, where both the heart and the mind feel electrified. The personal enters the intellectual realm, and all I remember was after speaking this way with a new friend was reminding myself, trying to fully believe it, ‘I’m in Africa. I’m in Africa.’”
--Sarah Beck, Instructor, English

 

"I think the most important factor in spending time outside the country is that it broadens your horizons. Too many of us do not get beyond our immediate community, region or state so that we do not know what we don’t know - but should. The world becomes smaller every day at a quickening pace. Whether we want to be or not, we are all members of the world community and are impacted indirectly, if not directly, by the events that occur daily.

To understand our place in the global community and that of other people, you must get out and meet them. You quickly learn that nearly everyone has the same hopes, desires and challenges that you have. That face-to-face meeting and building of a relationship with others quickly enhances your understanding of how the many varied pieces of the global community fit together and how you can or must work with it.

I was fortunate to experience a very broad spectrum of places and people. From living in an old shot-up apartment in Berlin to staying in the finest hotels in London, Paris and Hong Kong to sitting at a sidewalk kiosk in Mexico chomping tacos; and from meeting the President of the United States to a Vice Chairman of China to fine, worldly executives to the hustling factory workers one step away from the family farm or their peasant village, I felt comfortable and welcomed with all of them. You know that you are building successful relationships when those factory owners and workers alike invite you to their home to meet their family and have a meal. That does not happen a lot in the U.S."
--John Coleman, Instructor, Business
 

BY WINNERS OF THE MVCC AUXILIARY SERVICES SC SCHOLARSHIP FOR STUDY ABROAD

By Victoria Carmina
“The trip to Italy was an amazing experience and there were millions of things I have learned from it. With the millions of artworks that littered the streets and the culture that hung in the air, Italy was a beautiful place.  The food was all locally grown and the way it tasted and made me feel was phenomenal. Each area that the tour group visited had its own historical background and the culture was completely different, so it was like walking into a new country every time. Venice, the floating city, was beautiful and busy. Each street you could get lost in for about an hour and when the sun set on the water it cast beautiful colors over the city. Florence was covered in statues and fantastic architecture, anywhere you went you could find a fantastic display of art and history. Assisi with its rolling hills and phenomenal landscape was a treasure chest of religion and beauty, and I could have stayed there forever staring out at the view.
With so many wonderful places that I visited, It is hard to pick a favorite. I believe however that in each place, the thing that blew me away the most was the food. Not just because it tasted great, but the way it was made and the quality and price were astounding. In America eating healthy and organically is very hard. Price and quality are usually the defining factors. In Italy the food was all locally grown and handmade and it made me feel healthy and refreshed.  I actually lost 8 pounds!
The class prepared me for this trip and got me ready mostly in terms of monetary management, which of course I think is the most important. The transition from American dollars to euros can be difficult sometimes but in the end the class really prepared everyone very well for this and there were barely any troubles! I really learned a lot about Italian art history and while learning about that I learned a lot about myself and my future decisions! When I saw all of those amazing artworks the sight made me want to better myself as an artist but at the same time dampened my spirits considerably.  I believe that anyone given the opportunity should travel overseas and experience the amazing difference in culture. Many people forget that the American way is not the only way. A trip overseas completely opens eyes and minds to even the smallest of things. This trip to Italy was amazing and I will always tell others to go and share my stories. “

By Emily DeCola
“There are few moments in our lives one could describe as surreal. The world around you becomes hazy and it feels like you're in a dream-like state, unsure if what’s in front of you is reality, or just another picture you've seen out of a book or on a screen. You almost want to pinch yourself in assurance that you are actually witnessing what is in front of you. These moments are often fleeting, but when reminiscing, are often the most favorable.
Studying abroad in a foreign country often leads to many of these moments. Experiencing cities, monuments, works of art, people, food, etc. you've only seen in movies and read about in books is really an inexplicable feeling. Knowing that you've had the ability to go beyond the ordinary and witness and experience these moments that not many people have been able to, creates the feeling of knowing you're a part of something special…
Actually being in Italy surpassed every expectation I ever had prior to the trip. The entire time, I felt like I was in a dream and constantly had to remind myself that what was in front of me was actually there. One of my favorite moments was on our way back to the mainland from Venice on our first night. Two of my friends and I sat at the very back of the boat. As we made our way back to the mainland, we had the perfect view of the Venetian Island just as the sun was beginning to set. As we watched the sunset over the encapturing city, I began to fathom that this was the beginning of something simply astounding.
There were many moments that I cannot express in words. Seeing Florence from the top of the Duomo, Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus”, the picturesque countryside landscapes, walking through Napoli, and simply being in Capri. But the most captivating was the way people truly lived in the streets. In the American culture, you are told to stay out of the road and look both ways. But in the Italian cities, the people took priority in the streets and the traffic was merely secondary. Walking on the sidewalk was almost unheard of. From street performers and vendors to artists and musicians, everything took place in the streets. They weren't in the same rush most Americans are. They took their time doing things and enjoyed what was happening around them. You really had the capability to experience the culture of these beautiful cities within its streets. While walking through the warmly lit streets of Florence at night, I could hear someone playing the violin in the distance, a political rally occurring in a plaza nearby, and could see people honestly enjoying themselves, taking in the intoxicating environment around them. In Rome, people flowed out of restaurants into the streets, musicians played instrumental versions of Pink Floyd songs, and a clown entertained young children. The life and energy which emerged really encouraged me to enjoy what's happening around me and live within the moment.
Having the ability to study abroad is life changing experience. You have the opportunity to be submersed within these foreign cultures and come away an understanding on life in another country. You form a special, almost unexplainable bond with the people you study with, knowing you both experienced the same things. Although it may not seem like it, when coming home from studying abroad, you are a sincerely changed person.”

 

By Marni Ferguson
“Prior to the Italy study abroad trip I had never been overseas. It was something I knew I always wanted to do but had never had the chance. I went in to this experience with many preconceived notions of what my trip would be like, some ideas I had held true, but countless things about being in a foreign country surprised and taught me a great deal.
The Mediterranean lifestyle was one I won’t soon forget. There were clothes hanging off every balcony and the breeze was crisp and salty. Although smell isn’t something you normally think about, the difference in the air was one of the first things I noticed--it was remarkably more crisp than what I’m used to. The normal attire in Italy was also something I grew to love about the culture. Most people in the cities were always dressed to the nines and acted rather formal to match. People seemed to be on their best behavior just strolling through the city. Although the larger cities the group visited were more formal, the less populated areas we stopped at had nicer individuals. The store clerks and citizens of the smaller towns were more eager to help, communicate, and try to make a connection, even though the language barrier became bigger in small towns. That was one of the correlations I found to be most interesting as I was navigating my way through the cities of Italy. Navigating also became quite a big deal on the trip.
At the beginning of certain days on the trip, the group was told to go explore the city, get lost, and try to navigate your way back. We were told by many people that it was the easiest way to learn a city, and it was. Now, I’ve never been someone who takes charge or speaks up, but I ended up being the person reading the map and guiding my group through the city and where we had to be. It was amazing to learn that about myself:  that I could travel through a foreign country with a language that I knew little about. It was empowering to say the least. At the end of my tour in Italy, I had decided to travel further in Europe. I went on to stay in Belfast, Ireland and Dundee, Scotland. The further travel required me to go through another three airports in two different countries with two different languages that I was not familiar with. Traveling alone like that was something I was very fearful of, but it truly instilled a sense of independence and self-confidence in me.
I will forever be grateful for my trip to Italy. The things I learned about myself and the stunning culture of Italy will stay with me as I continue to grow and thrive. I highly recommend traveling overseas to anybody. Experiencing another culture is something that gives you a new perspective on life and the culture you live in.”

 

By Ron LaDue                                                                                           
“My experience can be described as simply amazing. To go to basically the other side of the world and live in another foreign country is something that can only be described as life changing. Granted I bounced from city to city, but there was so much to see and experience.
What I found most interesting on the trip was the lack of organized traffic systems in Italy. Unless you were in the big cities of Italy, you would not see a traffic light of some sort for miles and often seemed like forever. Also I was impressed at how well connected the study abroad class was connected with the trip. All the information about the rich food, culture, art works, and architecture we had learned in class were fun to learn about, but to actually see and experience them first hand is like a whole other type of learning you experience.
As an example, I was looking most forward to go to the city of Rome the most because everything that I found most interesting while attending class was located there.  Also, everything that I have learned on my own, such as the Trevi Fountain and Castel Sant’Angelo was there as well.  The Pantheon however was the number one thing on my list that I wanted to see while in Rome.  I learned so much about it in class and from doing the class projects and from when I had taken an online Art History class online at MV, so this was the most intriguing historical piece of architecture to me and was just awe inspiring to see and experience.
When walking into the Pantheon, I was completely amazed at how big it actually was. To see the artwork, its most famous oculus, and obviously the building itself is hard to explain. Even seeing the Coliseum first hand is something that is hard to explain as well. When walking into these places, I always stopped and took a sec to take it all in and realize where I was. You could really feel the history of these places and appreciate them more.
While on this once in a life time trip, I learned that you really can’t take life for granted and that you should go out and experience the world and not just our country. This trip has encouraged me to work harder in order for me to travel to other countries that I want to see in the future. If I was to talk to someone that was unsure about going overseas, even for a short period of time, I would easily tell them to go and do it. It will be such a great experience and something they will never forget. I know it was such an amazing experience for me and one that I will never forget. I am very thankful for this amazing opportunity I was given by Mohawk Valley Community College and I would absolutely go on this trip or any other study abroad trip again in a heartbeat.”

 

By Vielitza Rodriguez
“Italy was such a great experience! Getting the chance to visit was one of the best things that has happened in my life. I learned many things and experienced to some sort how Italians live. It is a whole different lifestyle than we have here. I loved how it was very lively over there…Italians seem to be friendlier than Americans--even with my fair share of rude Italians I still think they seem friendlier and even happier. I love Italy and I hope one day to be able to go back for a while longer or even retire there for a couple years. I didn’t think I would enjoy seeing all the art I got to see, all the places, churches, museums we got to go. I loved learning about the history of it and how it became to be and being able to experience everything with my own eyes. I would jump at the opportunity of being able to study abroad in more places.
Don’t pass up an opportunity to study abroad, People move on, life moves on, no one is there waiting for you so might as well take the leap and go for it! I've always wanted to go to Europe and being able to visit Italy for 11 days was exciting. I loved eating their gelato (ice cream), seeing how Italians go about their business, enjoying their food and much more! We visited many cities and the two that I enjoyed the most were Rome and Florence. There was just so much to see in so little time and if I was given the chance to go back to Italy even for a couple more days I don't think I would be the only one who would jump on that.
The class was very interesting also! We got to learn about their culture, their art, and especially their language. You don’t have to know everything about the place to visit but it's good to know the basics. You also got to learn about your classmates and who will be going on the trip with you.
Overall, don’t pass the chance to be able to study abroad even if it seems like such little time. You can do so much even in an unknown country, language you don’t understand and with the people you're with. Take the chance. You won’t regret it!”

 

By Albert Rudder
“First and foremost, I would like to say thank you. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. The extra $500 came in handy during the last few days in Italy. It was the experience of a lifetime and it changed my outlook on life. I’ve been to Canada a few times and visited the Bahamas once. However, traveling 4600 miles to Italy woke something up inside of me.
When we first arrived in Italy, I was full of excitement and kept an open mind to the things I would witness firsthand. For starters, I had no idea there wasn’t an open container law like there is in America. People were walking around drinking in the streets. Another thing that caught me by surprise was the law regarding night time at the beach. While in Sorrento, a group of us went and hung out at the beach after midnight. I was expecting to be the only group there, but fortunately there were about 30 people playing volleyball and swimming.
Venice allowed me to cross taking a gondola ride off my bucket list. I’ve always wanted to ride in a gondola. That was also the first time I tried gelato and fell in love with Italy. Our next stop was Florence, which happened to be when I realized there was no open container law. At the same time, I came across the illegal immigrants and street vendors. This was the first moment when I felt like I was in New York City. The other occurrence happened in Rome. The Italians said some people came to the country to visit and never left. These individuals didn’t have papers and would scatter when the police appeared.
After spending two days in Venice and two days in Florence, we traveled to Assisi on the fifth day. It was a complete change of pace for the entire group and less touristy. We visited St. Francis’s Basilica and got to look at some of the aftermath from the earthquake that happened in 1997. The highlight of the day was watching monks walk around the square of Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli. It occurred at night and there were a couple hundred individuals holding candles and praying in Italian.
The following day was kind of a blur for me. Our group traveled to Naples and Sorrento. Everyone on the trip got to witness the sunset on the coast of Meta. It was absolutely breathtaking and a once in a lifetime experience. A few of us went down to Alimuri beach to hang out and witnessed people playing volleyball and swimming. There were families showing up with their dogs and toddlers after 11pm.
I was nervous because I thought the cops would make us leave and possibly give us tickets. Fortunately, they just drove down by the beach and turned around. The locals weren’t worried and this helped put me at ease. In America it’s against the law to be at the beach hanging out or swimming after the sun sets, especially if there is no lifeguard present at the time. Not only was this the halfway point of the trip, but it was also the point when I got to spend time with everyone from MVCC and also the group form South Dakota. I made it a priority to mingle with everyone on the trip and to bring both groups together.
When we reached Pompeii the next day I started to get goose bumps and feel myself becoming emotional. We finally arrived at the destination I anticipated the most. Not too many people can say they got to visit the ruins of Pompeii, let alone walk the streets that were buried by Mount Vesuvius. Although the lava burned through everything, the volcanic ash helped preserve national treasures for hundreds of years. I saw dogs that were encased in glass as well as humans. I tried to envision what it would be like in the middle of the mayhem. I didn’t dwell on it too much because I was afraid of jinxing the group.
Once we reached our hotel in Rome that night, I knew the trip was close to being over. Rome was the busiest of all the provinces we visited. It was mainly due to the Vatican, but the Pope also made an appearance on our last day in Italy. The public transportation system was very confusing. The majority of bus stops had multiple buses traveling through them that took you all over Rome. I’m not sure if I was supposed to pay for multiple tickets, but I only purchased two of them. I hopped off and on multiple buses to get around Rome and experience a different aspect of Italian life.
I had no idea Italy would change me as a person and my outlook on life. It was the trip of a lifetime and members from MVCC and South Dakota have talked about taking our own trip. Over the next 2 years we plan on visiting Sicily, Milan, and spending more time in Napoli. I am truly blessed to have been given this opportunity and it will stay with me every day of my life. I knew a little Italian before we traveled there, but had better luck with the Italians when I spoke Spanish to them. I’m like a walking advertisement when it comes to Italy. I tell everyone they need to go and experience it firsthand. There were no dull moments and pictures can only show so much to an individual.”

 

By Amy Squier      
“I was really nervous about traveling abroad, mostly because of the plane ride. I had never been on such a long plane ride, and planes usually scare me. I was also scared to be traveling so far away without my family and having no way to contact them. But I told myself that once I got to Italy I wouldn’t care about talking to them because I’d be having so much fun.
The first couple days were a huge culture shock to me. I thought it would be easy to adjust to the way they do things there, but that wasn’t the case. No elevators, no toilet seats, paying for water at restaurants, people everywhere, being harassed by street vendors, trying to speak a different language: it was all so much to take in. By the end of the trip I got used to the culture, but I definitely missed the American culture that I know so well.
One thing that surprised me was how beautiful everything was. Everywhere we went everything seemed extra beautiful. It might have been because we were in a different country, but everything was breathtaking. The architecture was out of this world, something that you would never see in America. They took pride in having gorgeous sculptures and paintings not only on the inside of the buildings, but on the outside too.
The houses were many different bright colors, which made it very appealing to look at. I wanted to take pictures of everything.  It was so unlike what I see where I live, because I live in farm country. Even when we went to Assisi where there were a lot of open fields, which looks like where I live, it was still prettier than anything I had ever seen. The grass and trees looked so much greener.
One of my favorite parts of Italy was how lively everything was. I know that it is typical for a city, but living in the country I don’t get to experience that. I loved that no matter what time we went out, there were always people wandering around too. Sometimes it was a bit overwhelming when it was really crowded but I got used to it as the trip went on. I loved that there was action everywhere. I was constantly seeing street performers and artists painting in the middle of the street. It was fascinating. I loved that we could sit down to eat somewhere outside in the middle square or on a back alley street, right amidst all the action. That to me was once of the best ways to get to experience Italian culture.
One of the most adventurous things I did on the trip is a tie between climbing the to the top of the duomo, and ordering Italian food that I didn’t know what it was. Climbing the duomo was very exhausting since we had to climb 460 steps! My legs were killing me but I wanted to get to the top. I was really glad I did because it was so worth it. The view was astounding, and I was so proud of myself that I made it up there.
Eating at Italian restaurants was tasty, but also a little difficult because most of the menus were in Italian with no English. A couple times on the trip I ended up just ordering something by only knowing what one or two words meant, and the meal ended up to be very good! I was happy with myself that I was trying new foods because I usually don’t.
All in all, my time in Italy was everything I ever hoped it would be. I made so many friends and I’m sure our bond will last a lifetime. After traveling overseas with someone, you make a very strong friendship. I would encourage anyone to travel abroad if they get the chance because it gives you a totally different outlook on life. I am very proud of myself that I didn’t back out on the trip and stuck with it, because now I have these memories to last a lifetime. I can tell people “I’ve been there”, and how cool is that? I definitely want to travel again, as soon as I have more money in my bank account I’d like to go to Ireland and I’ve always dreamed of going to Kenya for an African safari, so hopefully one day I can make that happen, too.”

 

By Matthew Walter
“My trip to Italy was truthfully a once in a lifetime experience. The things I saw--to describe them in words cannot do them justice.  The people I met and the bonds I made will never be forgotten. It's funny to me because leading up to this trip, all I could think about was Rome. Of course all the places we visited were beautiful, but the one that really stuck with me over all other places wasn't Rome, it was Florence. The city of Florence is without a shadow of a doubt the most beautiful place. The city seems to have something going on everywhere you look. Not only is it extremely rich with culture, it also has  some amazing museums such as the Uffizi, but we actually learned during the trip that it was the actual birthplace of the Italian Renaissance! One night, after our guided tour of Florence,  I along with some friends actually were lucky enough to experience the city by night. It was by far the greatest experience of the trip for me because I felt free. Not to knock the guided tours, but wandering around the city just experiencing real Italian culture was so delightful.
What I found most surprising about the trip was how active the cities were at night opposed to during the day. The country is definitely more active at nighttime. Walking around the surrounding streets of our first hotel in Venice was honestly a bit strange. We could barely find any more than a handful of people in each shop, restaurant, etc. But coming back to the same places during the evening we found just how bustling the country really was. It gets pretty crazy at nighttime! I also found it extremely interesting that Michelangelo was forced by the former Pope at the time to paint the inside of the Sistine chapel. I had always thought it was just an incredible honor to do something like that, but he actually fled to Florence after first declining to paint the chapel! It wasn’t for a couple years until the Pope forcefully brought him from Florence to Rome to make him paint. Michelangelo also did not paint the entire Sistine Chapel. He only painted the Last Judgment and the ceiling because he had some very serious physical health issues when he was older due to the constant positions his body was forced to maintain.
What did I learn about myself? That’s a tough question, but I learned just how much I loved experiencing a different culture. I knew Italy existed, but the culture of Europe caught me completely off guard, and I loved it. It's not that it’s better than America, it’s just a fresh re imagining of the world and proves just how different and diverse the planet is. Everybody has to go overseas no matter how short the duration of time it is simply to experience the culture. In my opinion, to live a life on this earth and never once experience a place so different would be truly disappointing. It’s very tough to describe in words, but its polar opposite from what we are used to here in America. I just feel like if the opportunity to travel to a different continent is available, such as Mohawk Valley's study abroad program, we students should seize the opportunity.
I just wanted to thank Mohawk Valley again for giving me the scholarship. It helped a tremendous amount and I really enjoyed my stay in Italy. Until next time!”

 

By Devon Williamson
“Studying abroad is a necessity for any scholar in my opinion. It does wonderful things for a person. Imagine leaving your daily life for days and days to live in a country across the world, even a bordering country such as Mexico. It's completely different. Different people, different languages, different climate, different lives. Would you have culture shock? Or would you embrace the change and have the time of your life? Traveling will open your eyes to our vast a diverse world that a book or computer screen can do no justice.
I had the time of my life touring Italy and I will never forget my experiences and what I’ve learned. Of course the class was interesting, but the hands on experience we had outside the classroom was incomparable. When we first landed in Venice I couldn’t believe that I was actually in Europe. I've been to Central America before but never across the Atlantic to Europe. It was such an amazing and initially frightening experience at first. I remember trying to buy a panino in the airport with my friend. It was our first time using Euros. Even the ordering style was different than ours. I felt out of place for about 2 days but I soon felt very comfortable.
The thing that shocked me the most was the beauty of every single place we were. Indescribably beautiful. The scenery was something I've only heard of through books and websites. Being able to stand on famous historical sites was truly a once in a lifetime experience. The winding canals of Venice, the vast cathedrals and Renaissance artwork of Florence, The gorgeous country side of Assisi, the breathtaking cliffs and crystal blue waters of Capri, the preserved archeological devastation of Pompeii, and the historical excellence of Rome. The more comfortable we became, the more we explored and the more we found out about ourselves and each other.
I remember having casual conversations and laughs with many locals. Meeting, conversing and laughing over language barriers with locals and other travelers made this experience irreplaceable to me. I met many people throughout Italy that I never would have known without taking this class. Before this trip I had always viewed myself as culturally diverse and aware. It was how I was raised and it happens to be my passion. I am an International Studies major and I have deep appreciation for other cultures and languages. Experiencing one hands on made me actually feel comfortable as opposed to homesick.
I honestly didn’t want to leave. I found myself a few times going off alone to explore. It was something I had to do. Walking through the streets of Venice without a distraction and being able to walk through the ruins of Pompeii with my own thoughts and discovery was such a beautiful thing. I never want to stop traveling. I've been fortunate enough to travel my whole life and I don't think I could stop.
Even if you don't share the same passion for cultural immersion as I do, you might once you experience what I have. Everyone should experience an overseas adventure, to leave behind one’s comfort zone and routine to lose yourself in a foreign land. It’s a beautiful thing. Take yourself away from the technological and social homogenization  of what we live in. Turn your phone off and leave trace of yourself back home, back home for a brief time. It will change you and open your mind to the natural, ancient and diverse cultural beauty that this world is comprised of. “

 

By Laura Wright
“The most interesting thing on the trip was the Florence Cathedral, otherwise known as the Duomo; it was very tall and impressive and every part of the outside was covered in detail. Even the highest parts were ornate. It took over one hundred years to build the Duomo and looking at all the detail and the sheer size of it, you can see why.
One of the things that surprised me in Italy was that they could make boxes out of leather without using any other product. The edges were leather, the hinges were leather, everything was leather, and there were not even any stitches involved to hold it together. My favorite thing about Italy was that we were outside a lot and we did not have to go inside to see the art since it was everywhere, with beautiful architecture and lovely flora.
One thing I learned about myself on the trip was that I am not a one group kind of person. During the trip I did not hang out with one particular group but rather I floated in between all the different groups of people. In Venice there were steps leading straight into the water, they were covered in beautiful algae and reminded me of fairyland. There was another EF group with us on the trip and I felt that we meshed quite nicely. Several of the people from that group would hang out with us at the end of a day of sightseeing and we would talk about our excitement and the different places we had come from; the group was from a university in North Dakota but the people came from all over the U.S. So not only did we get to experience a different country’s culture, we also got to experience the diversity of cultures in our own country.
One night in Florence I went to supper with Cassandra, a girl in my group, and we were trying to find a gelato place that I had gone to earlier in the day but it turned out that I hadn’t remembered the route correctly; after a little bit of searching we decided to find someplace to eat at. We stumbled upon a family-owned restaurant and decided we would try it out, we ended up having to wait for a bit, but it was definitely worth it. It ended up being my favorite dinner from the whole trip. I ordered a shrimp scampi and when it came the shrimp still had its shell and eyes, it was very interesting getting the meat out and it tasted amazing!”