Outside the Classroom

 PC: Francisco Campos

PC: Francisco Campos

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Often the learning done outside the classroom can be just as effective, or more so, than the learning done inside. This past summer, 10 students in the Union scholars honors program discovered how during their study tour in Switzerland, Italy and France.

Although the learning focus was on the art and culture of the different countries, students also had other goals. For Kayla Miller, a senior nursing major, the trip was not only an opportunity to learn more about Europe’s history and art, but also an opportunity to learn how it applies to her.

Miller has Italian heritage, so visiting Italy was a dream come true for her. “I also loved seeing Normandy and the WWI memorials because it was humbling,” she said. “I actually teared up a little bit at one of those places.”

Francisco Campos, a junior computing and photo and video imaging major, was excited to visit the different countries so he could immerse himself in the history and culture. Out of the three countries visited, Switzerland was his major highlight. “The mountains were beautiful,” Campos said. “I think that’s why Switzerland is at the top of my list because the view just driving across the country was breathtaking.”

Learning about the nuanced differences between European and American cultures was an interesting experience as well. Both Kayla and Francisco commented that meals revealed some of the most surprising differences. Unlike many American restaurants where bread is complimentary, Italian restaurants charge for bread brought to the table if it’s eaten. No tipping and cover charges for groups were also changes that took getting used to.

The trip not only helped the students gain knowledge about new cultures but also helped them form new bonds with their peers. “I was friends with most people who went on the trip before,” said Miller, “But when you’re with someone 24/7 for three weeks straight, one of two things happen: you either become best friends or you hate each other by the end.” Thankfully, the former scenario prevailed.

“It made the trip better. I think going alone would’ve been awful,” Miller stated. “Going with the people I went with, including the faculty, made the experience complete.”

Despite spending only a brief time in each country, the students left with an unforgettable experience. “Just three weeks was tiring, but it was so worth it,” Campos said. “[I] highly recommend, even if it’s just a single week.”


Amanda McCarter is a senior studying biomedical science.