It is not often that one gets the opportunity to travel abroad. When that chance comes, one might be satisfied to visit one country. Not so for six of Eastern’s students.
During the fall of 2005 semester, seniors Elizabeth Hatch, Timothy Hart and Shannon Whiting along with juniors Joni Smith, Matthew Gordon and Karen Gelzhiser studied in Austria. However, simply a trip to Austria was not enough for this bunch; while in Europe either collectively or singly the group visited fourteen additional countries.
Throughout the week the students were stationed in Salzburg, Austria, where they did their studying. However, once noontime on Thursdays came around, they were free to go wherever they wanted as long as they were back Sunday night in time for classes again on Monday.
Interlaken, Switzerland, was Hatch’s favorite destination. “We did some hiking up in the Alps, a bunch of us went paragliding,” she said of their time in Switzerland. “We threw a birthday party for one of the girls.”
Gelzhiser, Gordon and Smith went to Belgium specifically for Belgium waffles.
“I was almost robbed at an ATM in France!” Smith said. The incident immediately became a group joke and they reenacted the mishap often.
Hatch describes how they almost got stuck in Barcelona. They had been unable to book a return trip on the train when they left for Barcelona and when they were ready to come home, the train was already full. They were told that they would not be able to get home until that Tuesday, resulting in missing two days of classes. In the end they went through the train schedules themselves and had to make several transfers, however they got back to Salzburg on time.
The group had the opportunity to visit many historical places that most people only get to read about in textbooks. In England, they saw Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the London Tower. They were able to see the Eiffel Tower in France; the Alps in Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Colosseum and the ruins of Pompeii in Italy.
“Being a history major, it was interesting seeing where everything happened,” Gordon said.
The group had to learn to adapt since they moved from one country to another in a matter of days. They were around seven different languages and handled six currencies.
Through the experience, Hatch said that she was able to learn a lot about herself as well as how to function and live on her own. Gordon said that it became easier for him to trust God for the future. For Smith, God clarified her calling in life.
Hatch added, “If you have the opportunity to study abroad, whether it be in Austria or Australia, do it! It will change your life.”