Briar Cliff University students in front of Vatican

Student Blog: Seeing Europe Through a Different Lens

September 17, 2019

How many of you have thought about traveling overseas? Briar Cliff offers many opportunities to study abroad every summer through multiple departments. Don’t let the cost scare you because the organizers really work with you to help make it affordable.


This past summer I had the opportunity to go on the Europe trip offered through the history department, led by Eric Juhnke for 18 days. In that time, we traveled to 6 different countries including England, France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Italy. Over the course of these 18 days we were fortunate enough to immerse ourselves, as best as an American tourist can, into each of these countries cultures and learn/experience something new wherever we went. We tried hundreds of new foods, explored new cities, met new people and friends, and made tons of memories.

I was able to learn a lot about each city/country we went to with the help of our very knowledgeable and all-around amazing travel guides. They explained the in-and outs of public transport, especially the metros, and led us around the cities. To help us have the best experience they set up a meal for us in each big city where we would enjoy traditional foods common for that country including fish & chips, duck, and of course pasta and gelato. 

Along with food, they arranged for amazing local tour guides to show us around. Normandy we had a tour guide tell us everything he could about D-Day, and lead us around one of the beaches and the American cemetery. In Venice we also got a tour of the city and in Rome we got a tour of the Vatican and the Colosseum. They were also able to set up fun, little additional excursions. Some of my favorites were: the Harry Potter walking tour in London, tobogganing Mount Pilatus in Switzerland, touring Neuschwanstein Castle, experiencing the Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany, a wine tasting in a small city in Italy, and a cooking class in Rome. An extra bonus was seeing the whole royal family in the queen’s birthday parade!

Amidst all these new cultural experiences, I also found time to learn a little about myself. An important part of travel, and essentially life, is being in the moment, connecting with people, and fully experiencing where you are. I was ‘fortunate’ enough to be thrown into this realization within the first few hours we reached London (our first destination). I, being the responsible adult I am, lost my phone. It took some getting used to and at times it was hard but all in all, this was probably the best thing to happen to me. Losing my phone showed me how much we miss out on in the world around us because we are too absorbed in our phones to appreciate where we are and what we are doing. The next day we toured London and I have to say that I wasn’t mad, sad, or angry… I felt free. I was able to walk around and really see, hear, and experience everything, which I otherwise would have missed. Throughout the whole trip I was ‘forced’ to talk to and meet new people. At meals, instead of hiding behind my phone like everyone does (be honest I know you do), I got to make conversations and connect with people. It was times like these where I felt so fortunate. I was lucky enough to be able to experience this trip in a way that not many got to. Don’t get me wrong, I missed being able to take pictures or talk with my family, and it brought challenges along the way.

If you have ever thought about going on one of the trips offered, I encourage you to at least look into it and talk to the appropriate people. Traveling is a once in a lifetime opportunity and you should take advantage of it now before you are tied down with a career or a family. The memories you make and the things you experience last a lifetime and it could be the best thing you ever do. I hated having to rely on my friends, but my point is that whatever you do, wherever you go, be fully there. The best pictures aren’t those taken by cameras. It’s those remembered and relived in our stories and memories we share.

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