From: Fenton, Michigan
Majors: Elementary Education
Lauren traveled to London in England, Amsterdam in Netherlands, Bruges in Belgium, Paris, Giverny and Chartes in France, Lucerne in Switzerland, Venice, and Florence, Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa, and Florence in Italy through the American Institute for Foreign Study during the 2011 summer. She traveled for 4 weeks. Here is a reflection of her experience:
An amazing art and architecture tour of Europe. I saw many churches, basilica, and cathedrals and visited many museums. In London I went to St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Modern, The National Gallery, and a tour of the major sights in London. On my spare time I saw the play Wicked in the West End theaters, went on a Thames River night cruise, attended an Olympic walking tour, had tea at Harrods, and watched the changing of the guard. In Amsterdam I went to the Van Gough Museum, Rijksmuseum, and Anne Frank's home. On my spare time I shopped at the flower markets and explored the canals. I then went on a day trip to Bruges Belgium where I had a waffle with chocolate and shopped on the medieval streets. In Paris I went to Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, The Louve, Musee D'Orsay, and saw the Moulin Rouge. I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and went on a day trip to Giverny to see Claude Monet's Home, and Chartres to see Charters Cathedral. Also, I went on a day trip to see the Palace of Versailles. In Lucerne, Switzerland I witnessed the beauty of Lake Luzerne and took a dip. I saw the Rosengart Collection and went on a walking tour, which included a Rocco style church. One evening I climbed the tower wall and saw the entire city, I also saw the Lion of Lucerne which was carved into the side of a mountain. In Venice we went to St. Mark's Basilica, Guggenheim Collection, and the Church of the Fairi, we also went to the gallerie dell’accademia. Venice was charming and beautiful; we went on a gondola ride and ate pasta in St. Mark's Square. In Florence we saw the Academia (home of the real David) and the Uffizi gallery. We also saw the Duomo, and Santa Croce church. In my free time I shopped in the leather markets and went on a Tuscan tour of Siena, San Gimignano, and Pisa. In Rome we went to The Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s Cathedral, the coliseum, and the Roman Forum. I also saw the Trevi Fountain, and Pantheon. It was truly an amazing course!
There was an instructor from London who was with us on our entire trip. He rode on the buses, ferries, and trains with us and went out to dinner with the group. We had an advisor in each country who was familiar with the area and knew the language which helped. AIFS had everything arranged for the group including; hotels, transportation, and activities. There was also plenty of free time to explore at leisure.
Which experience had the most impact on your personally?
It is hard to pick a favorite because each cathedral had its own uniqueness. The museums captured the most famous pieces of art in human history. It is surreal to me that I got to see so many incredible pieces. Europe is beautiful in every way, from the food and art to the culture.
What were your expectations of the trip? How did your experience differ from your expectations?
I had always dreamed of going to Europe and exploring the unique cities. The trip surpassed my expectations in many ways, it was an incredible experience that has impacted my life forever. I was a little nervous to fly overseas and take public transportation, but I learned that it was part of the adventure. I got to know people from different cultures by taking public transportation!
What was the biggest difference in culture that you experienced while a abroad?
People are open and willing to share their culture with the world. The atmosphere is much more laid back, even when the traffic was hectic, people seemed to have a love of life, food, and culture. I could spend the entire night at a restaurant in Italy, because the table was mine for the night, they believe that eating is a way of building community.
What surprised you the most about your time abroad?
How fast I adapted to change. Each country that I visited, although all European, had a unique culture, which I had to quickly adapt to. The trip also helped me appreciate my own country, while helping me learn new perspectives and bring new ideas home!
How has this experience changed you?
I have a better perspective on life. A few of the buildings in Rome, for example, are over two thousand years old. It was amazing to think that I stood on the same grounds as Julius Caesar. The architecture in Europe is timeless because it represents the culture of hundreds of years. I also saw the works of so many famous artists, as well as their graves. I saw the grave of St. Mark from the bible! Those experiences will be with me for the rest of my life.
Would you recommend this program to other students?
Yes, you have an opportunity to see multiple countries and get a real taste of Europe. It stretches your ability to adapt, because you have to change languages and cultures so frequently.
London, United Kingdom