Monday, November 19, 2007
I went on the Classic Europe trip in 2005, when I was a sophomore at the University of Iowa. Our group was a great mixture of students from the University of Iowa (about 23 or so), Penn State University, and other colleges with one or two travelers. Our total travel group was about 60 people. We had so many people that we were technically two groups traveling together. This was nice because we had two wonderful tour guides, Karin and Freidel. Another great thing about the group was the range of ages. The majority of the group were seniors who had just graduated from college but there was also a mixture of current students and younger alumni who took the trip. Overall the group was very friendly and inviting. Even though we were a large group, being in a foreign country and having the common background of being (mostly) students or past students from a Big Ten University was a great bonding opportunity. I traveled without a roommate and was matched with another traveler. This worked out great and I would recommend to anyone who wants to go, but doesn't have any friends who can go on the trip, to register as a single traveler and request the tour company to match you with a roommate.
I had never traveled abroad before and was a little apprehensive about traveling to countries where I did not speak the language. Thankfully, our tour guides were great about teaching us a few phrases that we would need to know in order to get around. I was surprised at how you could get by knowing so little of a language. Simple phrases like hello, thank you, excuse me, please, good bye, and "Do you speak English?" (I will go further into my experience with this phrase in a blog later on) can be all that you need. In most countries, the younger population could speak English and those who do not speak English are generally very willing to put together what you know of their language and what they know of English to help you out.
To me, the trip is a perfect balance of just enough time in each city to not only see the famous sites, but to also get a taste of the culture of that country. On the trip, you have a tour guide who is with you the whole time and is a great resource in finding out what you should see, how to get there, where you can get delicious (and inexpensive) food, where to find the best souvenirs, etc. They also can help you out with giving you pointers about the cultures (taboos that you might not know about), some words of the language to know, and answer any questions you might have. There also was a city guide for each new city we went to. The city guides were typically locals who took us around to see all of the highlights of the city (Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, for example) and gave us a great introduction to their hometowns.
I would reccomend the experience of traveling abroad to everyone! It's a great way to open your mind to the global community. Being in another country where my language was not predominate as well as the first hand experinences you gain spending time in a foreign country, changed my perspective on how I see myself as a global citizen.
For more information on the trip that I went on, feel free to contact us or if you are a University of Iowa Junior or Senior... stay tuned to your mailbox. Brochures should be dropping at your home address in the next week. Perfect timing for giving hints for a holiday gift/graduation present of Iowa Voyager's gift certificates which can be used towards our student and young alumni trips! Wait are you waiting for? You should start packing your bags!!
Friday, November 9, 2007
What was a typical day like for you? What did you spend most your time doing?
We would start off each day by waking up early, getting ready, and eating breakfast with the whole team. The team would read a journal entry about the previous day and someone would recite a “thought for the day” that reminded us of why we were there. We got to the clinic around 9am and separated into our designated rooms. We fed, changed, and clothed when necessary, otherwise we would just play with them and show ‘em some love! Around noon we would put the kids down for a nap and we would go eat lunch together outside. Afterwards, we came back and did the same thing all over again. Around 4pm we would depart- usually stopping in town to buy things we needed or stuff for the children. We would then go back to our housing, eat dinner, and rest for the next day.
At what moment did you feel you were really making a difference?
Honestly, the first moment I walked in. When we first went to the clinic, the children threw their arms up in the air wanting so badly just be held by you. I knew by just a simple hug, that my presence was making a difference.
How was life in Romania different from life in the United States?
Romania is extremely different from the U.S. We couldn’t eat chicken or turkey because of the Avian Flu. Almost everyone surrounding us lived in poverty. Hardly anyone smiles. There weren’t many cars and there were vast lands as far as the eye could see. Do not let that scare you though; the differences between the countries are just culturally contrary effects. The differences really changed my perspective on things and allowed to go into the clinic with an enhanced, doer attitude.
What was your favorite part about the trip?
Did you do any sightseeing? What did you think about your free time?
We had one free weekend that we choose to go to Transylvania and see Dracula’s Castle, as well as Peles Castle (which was the home of a great King). It was very cool to see a little more of the country and hear about the culture. Some of the other people in our group choose to go the Painted Monasteries and see the creation of Black Pottery which I heard was very cool too. I’m glad we had a little time to ourselves just so you kept an eager approach when you were returned to the kids.
What about the trip surprised you the most?
The people on my team! They come from all over, of all ages, with all different personalities. It was great to see such different mindsets and lifestyles. Everyone had something unique to bring to the table.
Is there any advice or are there any stories that you believe are important to share with people considering this trip?
Do not hesitate. You may be thinking about work that you’ll be missing or obligations that you have, but this truly is a one in a lifetime opportunity. And trust me- there is no better time than the present.
What did the experience teach you?
I learned to appreciate the small things life and I now recognize that I am truly blessed in so many aspects of life. You do not realize what you have until you see that others only dream of what you do have. And remember- you cannot change the world, until you let the world change you.
What did this experience mean to you and how has it changed you?
This experience meant the world to me. I knew it would have a great impact on me, but until you go and touch the souls of so many children do you realize what an effect you made. I have changed expressively, emotionally, and psychologically- all of which were for the better.
A big thank you to Bridget to sharing her experience in Romania. Please contact us for more information on this tour or the Dr. Ken Magid Child Advocacy Scholarship.