Phillip Rich on studying abroad in Europe
When asked if I had a nice summer, it was a very difficult question to answer.
How can you describe the feelings of getting lost on the streets of Italy? How can I properly convey the emotions I felt while touring a concentration camp? How can I illustrate the beauty of the Alps from the top of an Austrian mountain? How can I describe the indescribable?
The truth is, I’ll never be able to give my little European journey justice, but let me try.
I was one of seven Bowling Green State University students who took part in an eight-week study abroad program put on by our College of Business in Nantes, France. Through our program, I attended four weeks of classes in Nantes and a one-week trip to Brussels, Belgium. Other than the five-week commitment, the program had three weeks of built-in free time, and then I added an additional week on my own for a total of nine weeks in Europe.
The classes were unique and valuable. I was able to learn from professors from universities all around the world in classes taught in English. But as you might imagine, my trip will be remembered most for my experiences outside of the classroom.
During the summer before my junior year, I spent at least two days in 10 different countries.
I started off in Salzburg, Austria, visiting my freshman-year roommate who was completing his yearlong program through BGSU’s German department. I then went briefly to Munich, Germany, before heading to Rome and Naples for five days in Italy. After two weeks of classes with a weekend trip to Paris in between, I took a 16-day journey to Birmingham, England; London; Dublin; Madrid; Zaragoza and Barcelona in Spain; Budapest, Hungary; and Prague, Czech Republic. Then following two more weeks of classes, I finished off with one last week in Brussels.
If I had to pick a favorite city, I would choose Budapest. The beauty of the bridges and the buildings along the river combined with all of the history made me really fall in love with the capital of Hungary. Salzburg, Austria, and Rome tied for a pretty close second.
My two favorite, most memorable experiences come from Budapest and Salzburg.
I was lucky enough to be in Budapest during Hungary’s upset win in the Euro soccer tournament vs. its rival, Austria. And to add to the excitement, it was its first win in a big tournament in something like 50 years. The atmosphere in the streets, the reactions of my hostel employees and the conversations with some of the Hungarian people are all something I will never forget. I think, overall, this is one of the coolest and most unique cultural experiences I’ve ever experienced.
One of the best experiences in nature I had was climbing Untersberg, a mountain in Salzburg. The climb was quite challenging, and, unfortunately, my friend and I were not able to find a path to the peak (which deserves its own essay), but the beauty of the mountain, and the view of the Austrian and Swiss Alps were breathtaking.
Along the way, I learned quite a bit about myself and other cultures. For me, I had two pretty big takeaways.
Many of my explorations were done traveling alone staying in hostels. Despite being a fairly extroverted person, I found traveling alone can be a really valuable, reflective experience. I fell in love with the freedom of traveling alone and all of the people you inevitably meet. I am sure I will travel alone again at some point in my life.
Another impression is all of the different cultural perspectives I was able to experience. Throughout my journey, I had conversations with people from many different countries. Hearing their stories and viewpoints on the world were important learning experiences that will impact my own personal outlook for a lifetime.
My summer experience was incredible — recycling various adjectives to describe my time in Europe will not be able to do my experience justice. I do not think I will ever, no matter how hard I try, be able to truly appreciate how lucky I am to be able to experience so many wonderful places at such a young age. I will always be grateful for the opportunity BGSU gave me, and for everyone else who helped me along the way.