By Elise Nowak — GCU Student
If one ever has the time in his/her life to travel abroad to Europe, he/she should definitely take the opportunity. I was fortunate enough to take part in the experience two weeks after I finished my sophomore year at Georgian Court University with a group of 19 women. It was a very unique experience that I am very happy to have taken part in.
Our group’s first stop in Europe was Amsterdam, Netherlands. When we arrived at the airport in Amsterdam after a eight hour flight, we met our tour director Jamie, who works with Explorica Travel Tours, and a group of 21 students from California who would join us on our two week excursion.
Our European adventure was from Monday, May 26, 2014 to Monday, June 9, 2014. On May 26 when we were to arrive in Europe, everyone in our group at GCU had to meet on campus by 2:30pm that afternoon in order to early for our 8pm flight at JFK. The flight to Amsterdam flew by with the help of a delicious dinner and a plethora of movies and tv shows to choose from. The flight touched down in Amsterdam at 9:55am their time and everyone in our group was super jet-lagged because of the time difference of the two countries. Once our group first met at the airport, all 41 of us got on the bus and went right over to our hotel we would be staying, put all of our bags in a hotel room and got back on the bus to start the first day of our tour. We took a walk in the city center of Amsterdam.
This two week, 15 day tour consisted of going to seven countries all across Europe every two or three days. We had a planned itinerary for each day to see historic landmarks each country is known for, such as Heidelberg Castle in Heidelberg, Germany and then to take guided walking sightseeing tours in each country. The only free time we did have was for lunch and every night, after dinner as a group. I explored the nightlife of the different countries with my new friends.The food in Europe was very different from what everyone in our group was used to in America. For example, in Europe, sodas and other sugary drinks are made with natural sugar, which is different from how Americans are used to them being made with corn syrup. Each night for dinner, our trip included an authentic home cooked meal from each country, and I found each meal to be good, one-time meals for experience (in Munich, Germany we had Bavarian Bratwurst), but I much rather prefer American food.
From our first day in Amsterdam, everyone as a group took the Metro train to get from place to place on our sightseeing tour. I made great friends in both groups of travelers, from Georgian Court and California, which made adventuring around each country during our free time much more fun and enjoyable. I moved around and hung out with various small groups of people on our tour so I was able to better know everyone. Everyone was so nice! Here at home I had never really taken public transportation very much, so since I had to get around to explore Europe, once I used it the first few times, it was a breeze.
In the mornings, before our group would enter into each new country by bus, driven by our faithful and loyal driver, Haust, our tour director Jamie would give us lessons of simple native phrases to use whenever we would be conversing with shop-keepers or other locals. For example, in France, my friends and I went into a little patisserie to buy some pastries and I said to the storeowner, “Je voo dray un chocolat cake,” which means “I would like a chocolate cake.” In that moment, as I asked for the little chocolate cake I could not help but smile and think to myself that my French grandmother would be so happy to hear me speak French if she were alive today. My favorite countries to visit on our tour were Italy, France, and England. I also loved visiting Italy and France because now I am finally able to say that I have visited where my ancestors are from!
I personally really loved visiting all of the historical landmarks and neat sites in these three countries such as the Murano Glass factory in Murano, Italy, the Basilica in Venice, taking a gondola ride in Venice; being so up close to the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France; and Big Ben, The London Eye and Buckingham Palace in London, England. I found it really neat to be so close to these iconic places that before, I had only dreamed about! Now I will always be able to proudly say that I have visited these places! I’ll forever have the pictures and memories to prove I was there. I bought many souvenirs from these three favorite countries I visited, for myself and each member of my family that I know we all will cherish forever.
In conclusion, some days when I really think about it, I really cannot believe that it has been two weeks since I have come home from Amsterdam, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, France, and England. I will be forever grateful to have had this wonderful opportunity to travel abroad and to have made life-long friends. I encourage that whenever one has the opportunity to travel abroad, that he/she should take the trip. I loved the experience!