Hayley C. Lemens offers an insight into her personal experience, which she gained during the tour and in many conversations with her fellow students and with people she met. The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments on this post are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of the Portland Kulturprogramm or any employee thereof.
Early one February morning the time had come to leave Salzburg and begin a new adventure. We were to drive to Italy and made our way south while enjoying famous artworks and a hike up Vesuvius. There we took a ferry to Greece where we traipsed through ancient ruins and enjoyed delicious food. Finally, at the end we made our way back into Italy to enjoy the canals of Venice. It was a lovely and welcome break from classes, especially after midterms, and we all appreciated the experience given to us by the Salzburg Kulturprogramm and the UP Studies Abroad Office.
Before heading off on our newest adventure we were prepared with two lectures – given by a guest lecturer – as well as our classes. The lectures were especially helpful during tours as we learned an overview of the history which could then be applied to the information we received from the lecturer. The class that helped prepare us the most was Fine Arts, of course, due to the amount of art and architecture that we were able to see. It was fun to be able to identify specific works by name and other facts relating to the pieces. I enjoyed being able to do that the most. A fellow student agreed: “Fine Arts was extremely useful as preparation for the tour. My appreciation for the artworks that we saw (in Italy in particular) undoubtedly was much greater thanks to the fact that I was actually educated on the history and significance of each piece” – Jonathan Simpson.
While in each of these places we came across many people. This is where one would notice a difference between Italy and Greece in comparison to Austria. For me, I experienced many openly friendly people on the streets who love to talk about their lives. I had a fun conversation with a street artist about his works and how he came to make art for a living. You can find this in Austria – people are very friendly there as well – though not so much on the streets. We have all noticed that one does not make eye contact or give a friendly smile while walking along the streets of Salzburg. In comparison to the United States it is more similar. People made eye contact and reacted kindly to my habitual American smile. (The one you randomly give to strangers as you pass). Jonathan also makes various observations that agree and disagree with mine:“Austria is a country where, generally speaking, people aren’t going to talk to you unless you talk to them. The same is mostly true in the United States, though the US usually receives less of a connotation having to do with “being aloof and unfriendly” than Central Europe does. Italy and Greece, however, are countries where people tend to be much more open when it comes to conversing with you or trying to convince you that the wine in their restaurant really is the best in the city, regardless of what the people outside the other fifteen restaurants on that street have to say. This is a sharp contrast from the relative quiet of Salzburg, and while people in the US can’t really be considered “quiet,” it isn’t very typical for them to be so open and vocal towards strangers. This difference can be seen as both good and bad.”
I am very happy to have had this experience, not only to add to the list of places I have been but also for the experiences that came with it. There is no way that I could have planned such a trip on my own. All of the plans made by the program were wonderful experiences from the tours, to the museums, to the olive oil tasting! I’m sure all my fellow classmates would agree according to Courtney Otani: “I don’t think that I could have had planned an experience like this on my own or carve out the time to do it on my own. I’m really glad that we were able to see so many things people dream of seeing when thinking about the places we’ve visited. Outside of all the things planned, the free time also allowed me to discover the city with friends on a less touristy level. Eating good food, hiking, shopping, and swimming at the beach are highlights. Another great thing that came from this trip was deepening my relationships with friends and other students at the center that prior to the trip I hadn’t spoken to as much.”
In these ways we benefitted and grew from the experience. I also think that it helped get rid of false images and stereotypes in our heads. The false images come from what we have learned up until the point of finally seeing a city or ruins or a piece of art. We can imagine how tall Michelangelo’s ‘David’ is and we can imagine a city of ruins at Olympia, but the real thing is much more spectacular because it is not false. We saw and appreciated the real David and the real Olympia. Also, because of the political unrest, Greece has not been viewed in the most positive light within the United States. While being there I realized that a place is more than what news channels make of it. That has actually been a lesson that I have been realizing more and more throughout my time as a study abroad student. Courtney also feels that she benefitted in various ways as well. “I feel that I’ve benefited a lot from being able to meet and talk to people of other countries and see in real life what is taught in school. It is neat to see the ways in which the languages of other countries are different or similar from the languages I know… I think this experience helped me develop the way I perceive the world. I know now that there are so many more dimensions to knowing about something and that the only way to really grasp some of those dimensions are through travel. It’s unfortunate that all of this can’t be grasped by reading books and the news or watching documentaries, but it is the truth. You gain so much more from actually being in a city, being able to see things in person, and being able to interact with the people of that city.”
Annie Morach has a different view though. Courtney and I came in with opinions and views of what we were expecting to see. “I didn’t really have any views coming in, but I was not expecting the amount of food we would have in Greece. And everybody was so nice, especially since I know I butchered their language when I tried to speak”. Maybe because of our differing educations – public versus homeschool – we had different ways of approaching this experience. Both, I think, are interesting. On one hand you have expectations proven wrong and on the other hand one is not burdened by these views. Either you are pleasantly surprised or you are just able to experience what the places have to offer.