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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Europe comes alive: College student learns while experiencing new lands

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Kelly's favorite meal while in Europe was at a tapas bar in Alicante, Spain.
(Submitted photo)
EDITOR'S NOTE: Kelly Pietkiewicz is the sister of Micky Pietkiewicz.

How would you like to visit London, Paris, Alicante, Barcelona, Venice, Florence, and Rome all in the span of one month?

Many college students are able to travel the world and get college credit for it. Kelly Pietkiewicz, a senior at the University of Memphis, had the experience of a lifetime this summer traveling through Europe.

The main statue for Les Fogueres De Sant Joan is built in the town square of Alicante.
(Submitted photo)
Pietkiewicz always knew that she wanted to study abroad and saw this past summer as the perfect opportunity. She signed up for a trip to Alicante, Spain, during which she would take a creative writing course. She paired up with a friend who signed up for the Spain trip as well, and they decided to also visit France, London, and Italy while they were in Europe.

First stop: London

They departed on June 5 for London. After arriving in London, "we got some rest because of the jet lag and then walked around Covent Garden and enjoyed dinner at a pub," Pietkiewicz said.

After getting some much-needed rest that night, they were ready for their first full day in Europe. They took a bus tour of London and saw Buckingham Palace, the Millenium Bridge, the Globe Theater, and Big Ben.

They rode the chunnel from London to Paris and were there for a week. While in Paris, they visited the Lourve, the Musse d'Orsay, the Eiffel Tower, the Paris Opera House, Champs Elysees, and the Holocaust Memorial.

Like home...sort of

Pietkiewicz said she was surprised by how similar the food was in Paris and the United States.

While riding a bicycle through Tuscany, Kelly had incredible views of the countryside.
(Submitted photo)
"There are ham and cheese sandwiches everywhere you go. I ate a delicious pork chop while in Paris. There was also lots of champagne, wine, coffee and macaroons," she said.

"I was fascinated by the fact that there were no supercenters like Walmart in Europe. There were fresh markets set up all over the city where you went to buy fruit, vegetables, bread and meat."

Though Europe may not have Walmart, many European countries are very Americanized. Pietkiewicz was amazed by the amount of English speakers there were in the countries she visited.

"One day, Anna and I were taking a taxi to our hotel and the driver heard us speaking English. He asked us where we were from and we told him Tennessee. He was so excited and yelled, 'Oh, the home of the King!'" she said.

High point

From Paris, Kelly and Anna took a train to Barcelona, and then to Alicante, which was her favorite stop of the entire trip.

Kelly throws a coin into the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
(Submitted photo)
"We took a creative writing and teaching English as a second language course. Our class was a lot of fun. We had many conversations about the differences in the Spanish and American cultures. We had class from 9 a.m. to noon every weekday and then we would enjoy the siesta and explore at night," she said.

Though work was involved during her time in Spain, there was also plenty of fun. Her class took a trip to the island of Tobarca, where they rented paddleboats, swam in the Mediterranean, and participated in a scavenger hunt.

"I would have to say that my experience in Spain was my favorite part of the trip. I got to interact with people my age who could tell me all about the way they live in Spain.

"I also got to spend my 22nd birthday in Spain, which was such a fun experience. I still stay in contact with some of the people I met in Spain and am currently helping one of my friends apply to graduate schools here in the United States," she said.

Fun festival

One of Pietkiewicz's favorite memories from Alicante is Les Fogueres De Sant Joan, a huge celebration held each year.

Kelly and her friend Anna in front of Buckingham Palace.
(Submitted photo)
"This festival is a huge part of the culture in Alicante. Each community around Alicante builds a statue. They work on these statues for long periods of time and sometimes they are three to four stories tall. The festival lasts for about a week and during the week parades are held and tents are set up for families to cook traditional Spanish food.

"At the end of the week, the people of Alicante gather in the streets and the statues are set on fire. The fire department comes and not only puts on the flames, but also sprays down all the people in the streets. Everyone dances and celebrates all night long," she said.

Italy comes alive

After two and a half weeks in Spain, it was time for them to visit Italy. They first flew into Venice. Though it took them a while to navigate through the city because everyone travels by water, they finally found their hotel, which was right on the water. While in Venice, they visited the island where Murano glass is made.

"The island was absolutely gorgeous. We spent the day on the island looking at all the products and we even got to visit the workshop where they make the glass," Pietkiewicz said.

The last two stops on their tour of Europe included Florence and Rome. In Florence, they visited the Galleria del Academia, home to the statue of David. Pietkiewicz also said that, "the pizza in Florence was unbelievable!"

Unforgettable ride

One of Pietkiewicz's most rewarding experiences in Europe took place in Florence. She went on a seven-mile bike tour through the hills of Tuscany.

An inside view of the Colosseum in Rome.
(Submitted photo)
"It was one of the most challenging things I've ever done, but it was also the most rewarding. It was amazing to see the natural beauty throughout the country and to see how simply some of the Italians live. We also visited a 12th century castle while on the tour," she said.

While in Rome, they visited the Coliseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Vatican, and the Sistine Chapel. She also noted that they saw many churches that were built underground since Christianity was illegal in Rome at one time.

She added, "I even saw a church that was built in the 3rd century."

Today there are many opportunities for students to travel abroad. Pietkiewicz knew that she wanted to take advantage of the opportunity she had, so she did just that, and was able to get her trip to Spain paid for.

Chance to grow

"I would advise any student to take advantage of study abroad opportunities. You learn so much about yourself and the culture you are surrounded by.

"Get started early with planning. There is a lot that goes into planning a trip abroad. Look for scholarships because there are ways you can get your trip paid for."

Most universities offer study abroad opportunities. Many students are taking advantage of the opportunity to earn college credit while pursuing their dreams of traveling to different continents.

"I learned so much about myself while in Europe and wouldn't trade my trip for anything. I encourage all students to travel while they have the opportunity. You will definitely not regret it." Pietkiewicz said.

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I would like any information regarding schlorships available for undergraduate students studying Spanish as a second language.

-- Posted by bethgoodner on Tue, Jan 3, 2012, at 5:59 PM

a great and economical way to visit venice is to take the Venice for Rookies guide with you. It's perfect for college students on a budget. (www.travelforrookies.com)

-- Posted by venicelover on Sat, Jan 14, 2012, at 2:45 PM

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