I am a poet—a sculptor of words—but I cannot mold them to express how thoroughly grateful I am for this experience. I used my journal almost hourly recording images, sounds, expressions and emotions…Moreover, my experience taught me a number of truths about myself that I may not have realized so soon. Once I thought I could live anywhere in the world and be completely content. Now I know that I would like to visit the world but like to be at least a close car ride from my loved ones. Once I thought I was completely outgoing and willing to tackle anything. Now I know that I am innately more shy than I realized and must push myself toward new friendships and endeavors. Regardless, I know I am a better person for having embarked on my journey.
Travel is stepping through the glass wall and becoming an active participant in the past, the present and the future. I traveled for four and a half months through Italy, Greece and Germany to see the splendors behind the glass walls and on the text book pages with my own eyes. My goal was to have the direct experience of my imagination…
Umbria is the green heart of Italy, and the town of Assisi is at the center of the heart… Famed as the birthplace of St. Francis and his order, it still today remains a Mecca for those searching a higher spirituality… On Sunday morning I hiked the two hour road up to the hermitage in the woods where St. Francis prayed in solitude… (One of the monks) asked if I would like to join their morning service with the nuns and other monks… The feelings that were created by everything from the birds singing, the wind through the open windows or the sunshine warming the cool room were only a beginning. It was something to experience with the heart…
I have always been obsessed with visiting Angkor Wat (Cambodia) since I was a kid admiring photos of the monument in a coffee-table book…It is the most impressive structure my eyes have ever seen. I had incredibly high expectations, dreaming about it for my whole life and I was not disappointed… Your trip and experience is completely within your own control which is perhaps the most intimidating aspect of the scholarship… Be patient, flexible, respectful and understanding and the most amazing experiences will present themselves to you… During my trip I lost my luggage, got incredibly lonely and intimidated, caught malaria, and was constantly confused about where to go and what to do. Having completed this trip, I know how to get around in this world on my own and that is the most freeing realization. Anything is possible.
This most amazing opportunity of my life was only possible because of this remarkable woman’s vision and insight into the value and importance of education and experience through travel.
The reason this trip was so important to me is because of what it did to develop my identity. I found that I was able to learn so much about myself by paying attention to the similarities of my thoughts and the thoughts of the people around me. I was able to more clearly distinguish which parts of my identity are attributed to my different environmental characteristics back home. I’ve always had a nagging question in the back of my mind that asks why I am who I am and what made me so. My adventures through Europe helped me to find my essence.
I read a biography of William Blake and enjoyed for the first time studying his illustrations along with his poetry. Keat’s "To Autumn" came alive for me on the river walk in Winchester as did the romance poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge which I re-read in the Lake District…The most important thing I learned on the trip had nothing to do with literature, or Great Britain, or even my family history. The theme repeated throughout my journal is one of homesickness. Not that I didn’t enjoy myself – if I had this to do over again, I wouldn’t change a thing! But the time for reflection and the intense longing I sometimes experienced for my loved ones did emphasize my priorities.
The countries I visited (in Eastern and Southern Europe) were as different from one another as they were from the United States. Customs, religions, lifestyles, economies and politics changed not only across borders, but often within them as well. The foods that I tasted, the art that I viewed and the history that I learned will never be lost in my memory. For these reasons, my trip though Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania was truly the trip of a lifetime.
The house my grandfather grew up in is on an island near the town of Flekkefjord (Norway)… It can only be reached by boat, or by walking over the mountain from Rasvag, the island’s main town… Grandpa’s house is tiny, with small rooms and low ceilings… I slept in what was my grandfather’s bedroom… I found myself thinking often of my grandfather who passed away five years ago. Sitting at the table, I wondered how often he had contemplated the fjord from that very place as a boy… I stood on the stone dock his father built, wondering if that’s where he stood when he felt the sea calling to him, a call so strong he left home at fifteen.
I found a wonderful hostel outside of town (Dingle, Ireland) and recorded many nights of music. One night, I went to record at a pub called An Droichead Beag (The Small Bridge). Who happens to be performing but Eoin Duignan. Late that night back at the hostel, we all sat around talking about how good the session was. There was a knock on the door… who could that be? In walks Eoin and the band!. He lives "next door" across some green fields… We sat in candlelight drinking tea and playing tunes until the sun came up. Someone even played "Sweet Baby James" for me when they found out I was from North Carolina and attend the same school as Mr. Taylor did. No matter how badly I wanted to, I refrained from recording… I will always remember the way everyone’s faces glowed like angels in the light of the candle.
As for what it meant to me, I do not even know where to begin. This trip was the best experience I have ever had the privilege to know. I was scared to death before I went on this trip… However, I was determined to go alone to gain independence and confidence in myself. I was terrified, but I knew that it would be the perfect opportunity. I would be across the world with only myself on which to depend.I was right. I had the time of my life and learned a great deal about myself in the process. By the end of the trip I felt very confident in myself and was ready to go anywhere and do anything, all by myself.
In all, this trip meant great friends, fun, beautiful scenery, independence, and self confidence to me. The best word I can use to describe it properly would be PARADISE!
The linchpin of my journey (to India) was what I learned about myself during my visits to my grandfather. The idea of self-realization permeated the rest of my travels, not always consciously, but it remained an important aspect of everything I experienced. I gained a new appreciation of my place in the world, and what I want to accomplish…
My first excursion north had religious overtones. The Ganges River is the life-blood of Hinduism, and its origin lies in the Himalayas… One is supposed to bath in the river to wash away sin… For those who might not have considered the implications of the Himalayan origin of the river, let me tell you. Mountains are cold, and the tallest range in the world is colder than all the rest. The water was coming from a glacier. It was cold. Very cold. I don’t think I bathed long enough to wash away all my sins, but then if I had, I wouldn’t have had to worry about sinning ever again, because I would have frozen to death…
My outlook on life is more holistic now than when I started. I feel confident in saying that the experiences of my journey will continue to enrich my life, and the lives of those around me, for its duration and beyond… All I have left to say is, "Thank you, Ms. Phillips, for having the forethought and generosity to give individuals such as myself an opportunity which can only make the world a better place."
… (b)ut I did not have any cash, and Hathersage (England) didn’t have a bank, so I took the train to the next town in pursuit of money. I got off in Bamford and met a woman who offered me tea. I ended up eating lunch and dinner at her home that day. To make a long story short, I stayed with her for four days, write to her often, and her son is coming to visit me in Chapel Hill sometime this year… If you really like a place, stay longer than you had planned…. I met people this summer who were so concerned with seeing the most different cities or the most different countries, that they never really saw anything. I think that misses the point.
So once you have completed your trip, what now? The sky is the limit, literally. If you can survive in a strange place alone, or even with a friend, for at least two months you can do almost anything… What you do with this experience is up to you, but one thing is for sure, this is a rare opportunity of a lifetime, and you are the better for having experienced it to its fullest.
It is practically impossible to count all the ways this trip impacted me as a person, the benefits are still coming through. I guess the biggest benefit of the trip was actually getting out and doing it. Frequently riding into a strange country or town and finding a hostel and making the little arrangements resulted in an incredible feeling of power and competence… As far as my actual stated goals of this trip, they were not only met but surpassed. My language skills certainly improved. I now feel like I have at least a rudimentary understanding of different European lifestyles and cultures and have decided that I would like to work in France at some point.
In summary, this trip was an awesome experience… Individuals, such as I, should not get caught up in their daily routine of work, but focus on living and enjoying life. Ultimately, I send much gratitude to Ms. Phillips and the selection committee for this special freedom of learning and living.
Traveling, especially in Australia, has been one of the best things in the world I could have done… By accepting this aid and setting out alone to a foreign country, I made the first step in growing spiritually and mentally. The new experience of being around different people every day for four and a half months shaped my thoughts and beliefs and therefore allowed my perspective to widen immensely. Now that my travels have finished (only temporarily, though!), I have become much more independent, my self-confidence has skyrocketed, hence making me much happier with myself.
Academically, the trip was useful as a learning aid because it gave me the perspective that I had not learned in the classroom. To take a course in comparative politics is one thing, but to see campaign posters spread all over Berlin is another. I believe I learned more in two months of traveling than I have learned in four years of college. For me, there was just something extra-enlightening about being in a place, getting the feel for its history and the process it goes through every day. My personal experience from this trip is so vast, I could never possibly describe it. I can simply say that I returned with a stronger sense of self, and a much greater appreciation of the world around me.
In sum, my trip to Ghana was undoubtedly the best experience of my life, in spite of the fact that it did not start off that way. I had to undergo a change of mindset and attitude in order to truly realize and appreciate the value of my experience. The memory of my days in Ghana will nourish and support me until I return again to make new ones. The people I met while in the country will always hold a very special place in my heart.
This trip allowed me to see first hand what I have studied for so long. For example, you can read about Paschendal but until you see the minimal distance the British advanced (less than a mile) over a flat plain that is below sea level at a cost of 60,000 men; only then can you appreciate the misery that was WWII… Abstracts became reality because I walked the same ground that history was made upon. A history major cannot really ask for much more… I have learned a lot about Europe, but more about my own country and myself.
I was able to see the "big picture" in life in general. During my trip, there were moments I danced traditional dance with the Sengalese and there were times I cried in compassion for some of the patients I saw. There is so much to be thankful for in life.
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