Global Scholars tour Europe

By Kenna Caprio

March 5, 2018 — Five cities in five countries in eleven days — Budapest, Hungary. Krakow, Poland. Prague, Czech Republic. Vienna, Austria. Dresden, Germany.

“I like bopping around. You get all different cultures in one plane ride. The European Union is really nice because you can easily cross borders because of the close proximity,” says senior business administration major Sedona Hill.

Steeped in history — that’s one way to describe the cities FDU’s Global Scholars traveled to over winter break. The group saw Budapest, Krakow, Prague, Vienna and Dresden. (Photo courtesy of Vidal Lopez)

On winter break, the Global Scholars Program — run out of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Metropolitan Campus by Professor Samuel Raphalides — sponsors an international trip for students. Recent locales include Iceland, Cuba, Belize and Turkey.

More than just a sightseeing trip, the goal is for students to really immerse themselves in another culture or cultures.

“Travel abroad is a curriculum in itself. It brings to bear a broader and deeper appreciation of the human experience,” says Raphalides, professor of political science and history, and director of Global Scholars. He and Vidal Lopez, dean of students at the Metropolitan Campus, chaperoned the trip. “Cultural differences connect and students develop and verify the increasingly interdependent world of today.”

The Turkish thermal baths looked “absolutely gorgeous. Like something out of a movie! It was a little cool out, but the baths were warm and the view was surreal,” says senior biology major Sam Durham. (Photo by Durham)
A stunning night vista of the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest. (Photos by Amanda Salazar)

In Budapest, the group took a dip in thermal baths. “When the Turks invaded, they brought paprika and Turkish thermal baths. It’s like a spa. So beautiful,” says Hill. It felt surreal, she said, to think of friends and family at home, working and sleeping, while she was off doing something so glamorous. 

The “rich culture and grandeur of the Habsburg’s Austrian and Austro-Hungarian Empire of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,” says Raphalides, continued with a stop at an opera house in Budapest. “There was real marble imported from Italy and a smoking room — couples could meet there secretly or during intermission. There’s a separate back entrance for the queen. They performed four different arias for us,” says Aneta Zaniewska, a graduate student studying computer science.

In Poland, students tried rose petal jam and coffee. The rose theme continued at a shoe memorial in Budapest. (Photos by Amanda Salazar)

Traveling to Poland felt deeply personal for Zaniewska, whose family is originally from Krakow — she couldn’t wait to see the city. “I wanted to see the fountain my brother fell into and the marketplace.” Hearing the language brought back memories, too. “When I turned on the television or heard people speaking in the streets, I could understand everything they were saying,” she says.

Outside of Krakow, the group ventured to Auschwitz-Birkenau, a Nazi concentration camp from World War II. “It was so emotional,” says Sam Durham, a senior biology major, who happened to be reading an autobiography by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankel. “To read about someone’s innermost thoughts, struggles and pain, and then relate it to the place it actually happened and see it, was eerie and crazy.”

The group also explored the Jewish quarters in each city.

“The medieval town of (old) Krakow, Poland, survived World War II unscathed and is a historic cultural jewel,” adds Raphalides.

For senior political science major David Medina, snapping photos of cityscapes and seeing the cobblestone streets in Prague were highlights. “It really showed just how old some of these places are. Being able to explore at night, like in Vienna, showed it all from a different perspective,” he says.

The group toured the House of Music in Vienna and saw “The Kiss,” the famous Gustav Klimt painting up close and in person at the Belvedere Museum.

“It was beautiful to see the joy of our students and their eagerness to explore every country,” says Lopez. “Every single student came back changed by the experiences they encountered and as a well-rounded global scholar.”

A day trip to Dresden, replete with a walking tour of the old town and a visit to the treasury, rounded out the experience.

Global Scholars and Dean of Students Vidal Lopez visit Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. (Photo courtesy of Lopez)

“Try to record your experience as much as possible,” recommends Durham, “by journaling, blogging or taking photos. My mom really liked it when I showed her a bunch of videos of the trip.”

The students also say that tasting local cuisine and specialties helped them connect to the cultures and the moment. They sampled wiener schnitzel, rose petal coffee, pierogi, paczki (donuts with jam and powered sugar), chimney cake (a cylinder covered in sugar, cinnamon and cocoa powder) and obwarzanek krakowski (a circular pretzel with salt and sesame seeds).

“We live in such a diverse world. It’s more than just your three miles of space. There are so many different types of people and opportunities,” says Hill. “The world is just so beautiful. And as humans, we’re here for exchange and interactions and to learn more from one another.”