As a child, I lived in Bristol, England for two years. These foggy memories of my childhood’s past were the only glimpses of a life outside of the one that I knew within the United States. As I arrived at Auburn University, everything seemed all too familiar. My entire family had attended the university, which resulted in me spending many days and nights attending Auburn football games. I soon became quite familiar with the campus and the atmosphere surrounding it. Due to this, I developed a burning desire for a change. As much as I loved Auburn, I knew I had to expand my horizons and challenge myself to break outside of my comfort zone. I decided that the summer after my freshman year was the perfect opportunity to do so. I quickly set my mind on a multi-country study abroad program. I brought my desires to the study abroad office and soon discovered the European Cultural History Tour hosted by Eastern Michigan University. What I found far exceeded my expectations of a trip itinerary, and had an appeal like no other program.
My choice to study abroad through the Cultural History Tour by backpacking across Western Europe and the Mediterranean for 70 days remains my greatest decision to date. Each of the 10 countries and 24 cities that I visited offered a new and unique cultural experience. From the bone chilling tour of the concentration camp in Dachau, Germany, to the breathtaking shores off of the coast of Crete, Greece, I expanded my horizons beyond what I felt was possible. What was so unique about this program was the wide array of cultures that I was exposed to from our constant travel to different cities and countries. Just as I began to feel comfortable in one city, it was on to the next. It was a constant challenge to adapt to the ever changing environment around me.
Earning 12 credit hours in humanities and social sciences enhanced my knowledge of the world around me, only with these credits, there were no classrooms. The large classrooms and auditoriums that I was accustomed to quickly transitioned to museums in Paris, ancient ruins in Rome, or historic mosques in Istanbul. We were led by a director, a professor of history and a professor of art history. These three individuals had been involved with the program for 17 years and confidently led us through every obstacle and journey.
As I reflect back on my trip today, I realize that the people I met and the relationships that were formed along the way had an everlasting effect on me. Whether they were fellow students participating in the program, travelers from around the globe, or locals in the cities that we were visiting, each person made their own unique impression on my study abroad experience. The friendships that I made along the way will last a lifetime, and they are a constant reminder of the incredible journey that I was fortunate enough to be a part of. What started out as a distant dream quickly became a reality; a reality that I will forever hold as one of the greatest experiences of my life.
— Earl Parsons