By Dustin Clauser
“Do you have a letter?”
“No, no one told me I needed one.”
“Then I’m sorry but I can’t let you in the country.”
My jaw drops and I just stand there in front of the lady behind the desk. No one said anything about a letter and now I’m standing on the doormat to England, over 3000 miles from home, with no idea of what to do.
I step aside as my two friends that came with me realize what’s happening.
“What are we going to do?” I ask them. Just then my roommate Dave started to pull out his laptop. I ask him what he’s doing but he just looks at his computer as I start to have a panic attack. I notice that he is pulling up emails that we got from the coordinator of the whole summer study abroad program, Heather. He finds one email and shows it to the lady that is standing between us and the best summer of our lives.
“I guess this will work but next time come prepared,” the lady says to us as she stamps our passports. Our first story of the summer is about how it almost didn’t happen, that’s how we all knew, right away, that this was going to be the summer of our lives.
I have never been outside of the US boarders my entire life until the summer of ’05. I didn’t know what to expect. Will people there know that we’re Americans? Will they care? I’ve seen movies and heard stories from people so I thought that I would be prepared but I was mistaken. I didn’t really know until I got there and even then I could tell you how I perceived it but it won’t have nearly the effect as you personally going and experiencing it for yourself. It was beyond my wildest dreams and I would do it again in a heartbeat!
We traveled to Oxford, England to study for 6 weeks, taking two electives. We had class Monday through Thursday which left you a 3 day weekend to do anything you wanted. There were about 30 students in all from FIT with a wide range of different majors and personalities. At the end of it all, we all became friends and now we can always say to each other, “Hey remember in Oxford…”
There is a college in Oxford called New College, because it was the newest addition to the 30 or so other colleges in Oxford, that was built over 300 years ago. That’s older than our entire country! The history “across the pond” is mind blowing. It really puts into perspective how young and new America is compared to the rest of the world. When we traveled to Paris, Edinburgh and Bath, we got to see for ourselves the history and culture that you only get to read about in America. This experience was truly something that I would recommend to every single person.
We really don’t know how good we have it here in the States. For some reason they fear ice over there like it is the plague. I never saw an air conditioner. Mountain Dew just can’t be found anywhere; trust me-- we searched for 6 weeks. But these are small prices to pay so that we could say that we celebrated Dave’s 21st birthday at Stonehenge. Do you know anyone that celebrated a birthday at Stonehenge? I didn’t think so. But Stonehenge was one very short stop on our tour of the rest of the world. You really just have to have an open mind and try to experience all that you can. We experienced things that you probably have never heard of, try punting for example. If you type “punting” into MSN.com’s search engine and click on the first link you’ll see a few pictures of it. But its things like punting that you don’t get to experience in America.
These are my final words of advice-- travel the globe and see the world! There is so much more out there for you to experience, learn, and live!
By Karen D’Alberto, Fl Tech graduate 2005, Current Florida Tech MBA student
Skep·tic (skêp'tîk): n. 1) One who instinctively or habitually doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions or generally accepted conclusions. n. 2) Karen D’Alberto, Oxford Study abroad student, prior to summer 2005.
Yes, I was a self-admitted skeptic of what exactly summer abroad was or would do for me. That was then, this is now:
En·thu·si·ast (ên-thö'zë-âst) n. 1) One who is filled with enthusiasm; one who is ardently absorbed in an interest or pursuit. n. 2) Karen D’Alberto, A zealot; a fanatic.
Are you a skeptic? Wonder if study abroad is for you? Imagine experiencing Oxford colleges steeped on centuries of tradition, Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Guinness Storehouse and Factory, prestigious Trinity University and The Book of Kells, along with the world famous Temple Bar district. Now imagine encountering famed Broadway shows like Lion King, the ancient Stonehenge, Roman Baths, the city and colleges of Cambridge, not to mention Big Ben, The Tower of London and the Crown Jewels. Can you also fathom visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral, West Minister Abby, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, William Shakespeare’s birth and burial places, and everything British-- museums, theatres, palaces, castles, pubs, cafes? Imagine all of this, PLUS living in Oxford and making 30 life-long friends, while earning Florida Tech course credit and paying reduced tuition!
All of this in just one summer! Yes—I thought it to be unbelievable too. However, Florida Tech has made it very possible! I am no longer a skeptic, but a believer in experiencing all England and the world has to offer.
Inquire today about the 2006 Summer Study Abroad Program to Italy and Oxford to experience the Unbelievable!
Traveling to Oxford with Florida Tech offered a unique opportunity to live and study in an amazing place. No vacation could offer this same kind of experience you can only get from spending an extended period of time in a new place. I was able to earn college credit while exploring England. I made new friends, tried new foods and walked ancient streets. I sat in pubs and walked through buildings that are centuries old. My trip to Oxford wasn’t to just a trip to a foreign county but also a trip back in time. You too should find a way to make this incredible opportunity a reality.
For those wishing to explore Europe, the Oxford experience is the best chance you may every have to do that. If you make the most of your time, you can visit someplace new every weekend, while managing to do well with your studies during the week. The professors understand that for most, this experience is as much about learning out of the classroom as it is learning from within a classroom.
Be sure to take advantage of the group field trips. There will be plenty of time to explore on your own, but places like Warwick Castle, Blenheim Palace, and Bath are well worth visiting. When in London, I also visited the Imperial War Museum. It was about a 20 minute walk from Trafalgur Square (moving at a quick pace). Along the way you must cross the Thames river and in the process walk right next to Big Ben and near the Eye of London. The Imperial War Museum is not much different than many American war museums, but it is free and has a very impressive layout of World War I and World War II collections. It is a must see for anyone who studies history.
I went to 5 shows in London. Go to as many shows as you can in London. I went to Wizard of Oz, Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies, Les Miserables and Wicked. I still can't decide which one was the most impressive.
When it is time to plan for your 4 day and 3 day weekends, the options are endless! I chose to go to Rome, Italy for my 4 day weekend and Munich, Germany for my 3 day weekend. I also stayed in Europe a few days after classes and travelled to Edinbugh, Scotland.
Rome is an incredible city. Everything is within walking distance, but bring a good pair of walking shoes. We purchased the 3 day metro pass for 11 euro which allowed us to use the subway as much as we wanted and we could have used the buses as well. We never used the buses as we would take the metro to a new location and walk back to our hotel. The hotel we stayed at was Hotel Edera. It was affordable and classy. It is located very near the Colosseum, and the metro is also near the Colosseum. Hotel Edera offers 2 or 3 beds to a room. With 3 beds in the room it was 100 euro per night. We flew out of Stansted on Ryan Air. It is considerably cheaper than going through Heathrow or Gatwick, but it is a little less convienent to get to. We found a coach that goes to Stansted from Oxford with a return trip for only 34 pounds. The coach allowed us to leave Oxford at 1 am to arrive for our 6 am flight (the coach takes 4 hours because of many stops along the way). We left Stansted at 6 am and arrived around midnight for our return maximizing our stay in Rome.
When in Rome, go to the entrance for the Palatine and pay for the day pass that includes the Palatine, the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. It was 12 euro to spend the day wandering through all 3 sites. Bring your camera, you can take pictures anywhere within and you will want to!
The next day we went to the Vatican. St. Peter's Basilica opens at 8 am, so we went there first. You are allowed to take pictures with no flash. Rome has basilicas everywhere, so stop in as many as you can. Each one is unbelievable. After going to St. Peter's Basilica, head back towards the Vatican Museum and find a tour group. The tour groups are all pricey, but it was worth it. The insight consists of so many things you otherwise would not learn and makes the viewing of the Sistine Chapel so much more interesting. Part with your group once you view the Sistine Chapel so you are free to look around the Vatican on your own. We stayed in the Vatican 3 hours after our tour was finished. If you leave with your group, your day at the Vatican is finished.
My favorite location in Rome was the Leonardo Da Vinci museum. Hidden near the steps in Piazza del Popolo, the Da Vinci museum was a surprise. At only 7 euro, it made it a very affordable museum with many of Da Vinci's designs coming to life in an interactive museum. Most of the displays can be used so you can see how his designs worked. After the Da Vinci museum, go up the steps as high as you can go…you will get a spectacular view of Rome at the top. We then walked through the Villa Bourghese parks for a welcome break from the city.I highly recommend going to WH Smith at Oxford looking for guide books to whatever city you visit. I purchased Insight Guides: Rome City Guide for 12.99 pounds and we visited nearly every location within the city. It was the best investment I could have made for maximizing my visit to Rome.
My next trip was to Munich. My plans for Munich were a bit different as I had distant relatives in Austria. I took the metro from Munich to Traunstein, Austria where I met with my relatives and then went to Salzburg, Austria. Salzburg was a very nice city in the Alps and is the birth place of Mozart. A nice traditional Austrian city to visit.
We didn't spend nearly as much time in Munich as we would have liked. Upon arrival in Munich, I had to find Hotel Blutenberg which was an affordable hotel...but not located anywhere near the heart of Munich. Fortunately, the train system in Germany is one of the best in the world and you can always count on the trains being ontime! My first morning in Germany, I spend 23 Euros and took a train to Traunstein, Austria where I was fortunate enough to meet up with a distant relative I met using Facebook. He took me to Salzburg, Austria...where my family surname originated. I was able to acquire my family crest from 1389 and finally learn the origin of my last name. If at all possible, I highly suggest researching your family heritage while in Europe. The highlight of my trip was learning about my family origins.
The second day in Germany we took a two hour train ride to Fussen, home of Castle Neuschwanstein. This castle is the late 19th century castle that Walt Disney based the Disney castle on. It is a bit of a hike up to the castle, but the view in the Alps is unbelievable and you can understand while Ludwig built his castle there. We used Viotor to book the trip for 50 Euro online, but found out we could have saved 15 Euro by going to the Munich central train station and purchasing the tour. It was a full day trip, but we were back early enough to pay a visit to Marienplatz (the center of Munich). From there we had to sample the local fare at Hofbrauhaus, a must if you visit Munich. On the final day, we were able to take a tour of the 3rd Reich (information on this tour also available at the central train station or online). The tour was quite impressive, despite the fact that very little of the 3rd Reich remains. It is an information based tour, but if you are a history buff you will love it. Our last stop was Olympic Park and the BMW Museum, both free!
The Oxford Study Abroad was the MOST incredible and educational experience I've ever had! I made friends from all over the world @ FIT, but I actually got to GO aroad because of this opportunity. I would recommend it to EVERYONE! Heather not only is a fun and exciting person, but greatly experienced in her travels as well as making it fun and educational at the same time. She doesn't dictate your schedule, it's all chosen democratically. I went to Lacunza International Language house in Spain for 3 weeks first & got credit for Spanish 2. Take full advantage of your time at FIT, no matter what your major, this trip would change your life. I cherish the memories, 1,000's of photos and EXCELLENT education I received at Oxford, I would give anything to be a part of it again! Don't miss out!
Class of Dec '09, Oxford 2009 BS
International Business Management- Magna Cum Laude