Overseas update: “Education is outside the classroom”

Stefanie Albert

One of the greatest things about living in Italy is having Europe right at your fingertips. A six hour train ride can bring me to an entirely new city, with different culture, people, language, and food. Even traveling within Italy’s regions reveals the unique characteristics of each area. In the five weeks I have been in Florence, I have spent most weekends traveling elsewhere, and getting quite a feel for a variety of European culture.

I was fortunate enough that the program I’m registered through (A.P.I.), plans excursions through Italy for students. My friends and I have seen many of the cities and beautiful landforms Italy has to offer. Our second weekend in Italy we travelled to Rome. It is much larger than Florence and is filled with historic monuments, architecture, and more. We toured Saint Peter’s church, The Castle of Saint Angelo, The Vatican and Sistine Chapel, and of course.the Coliseum. I have heard, read, seen, and learned all about these ancient landmarks, but it was nothing like seeing them with my own eyes. I was fascinated to be standing inside some of the world’s oldest and most legendary spots.

Two weekends ago we packed our bags again, and ventured to Genova and the Cinque Terre. Not only are they known for some succulent pesto sauce and seafood dishes, but exceptional and exotic physical surroundings as well. There is a small town in this area called Santa Margherita, which was my favorite stop throughout the weekend. Santa Margherita is a beautiful blend of a tropical landscape mixed with a European city feeling. When I walked along the beach, I was surrounded by palm trees, white sand, and a turquoise sea, but looking behind me there was a small town filled with small shops, narrow cobblestone streets and colorful homes. I came to love the combination of these pleasant scenes and the subtle peacefulness that Santa Margherita conveyed.

Since we were in Europe during the month of October, how could we not make the trip to Germany for the world-wide celebration, “Oktoberfest?” So last weekend, (along with many other students and locals of all ages) I made the 12-hour bus ride to Munich, Germany. When we entered the gates I could not believe how big it really was and how many people were in attendance. There was so much going on beyond what I had expected: there were amusement rides, games, beer tents, live music, dancing, one-half meter wiener-schnitzel stands, and some very eye-catching outfits. No wonder Oktoberfest is internationally recognized. The thing that appealed to me most was the friendly atmosphere and positive energy rolling through the festival.or perhaps everyone already had a few beers. In either case, people made friends instantly and shared a common thrill in just being there. It reminded me of the bond you see in Bostonians outside Fenway after a big win for the Red Sox. It was impossible not soak up some fun and appreciate being a part of the atmosphere. I’d say it was well worth our while; including the 20 or so hours we spent on a bus in just three days, while watching Italian movies with English subtitles.
And we still have some of our best excursions still to come. In the next couple of month we will set out for Venice, Verona, Torino, Paris, and possibly London. I’m seeing and learning more than I ever have in such a condensed time. The education is outside the classroom, in taking chances to see and do all that is accessible throughout my stay here.