From early childhood, I had seen pictures and videos of other countries and the beauty they held. The thought of visiting another county multiple hours over the ocean was a farfetched thought for me but I was determined that one day I would get to visit Europe. I dreamt about the adventures and experiences that an opportunity like that would provide and the life changing effects that would come along with it. For a while it looked as if I would not be able to travel until I was on my own, but Auburn Abroad changed that.
The Central and Eastern European Studies Program, referred to us students as CEESP, said like it’s spelled, almost felt like a God-send, it visited Vienna, Austria; Ljubljana, Slovenia; and Zagreb, Croatia. The classes it offered fit with my major, it visited countries and cities that I had always been interested in, and for my first overseas trip it seemed lengthy enough to quench my thirst, but not too long to where I would get homesick. So, I met with the professors, started an application and there it was, my plane ticket to Europe. I had never been so excited, curious, and scared in my life, but I was doing it and nothing was going to stand in my way.
The first week of the four-week program took place right here in Auburn. We had to get the schoolwork out of the way so when we got to Europe we could explore and have as much free time as possible. I actually enjoined this first week; I got to know the other eight students going on the program and got to know the professor that would accompany us. This was one of the slowest weeks of my life because all I could think about was what sat staring at me at the end of the week, my first flight to Europe.
Saturday, May 23, 2015, we jetted off to Europe. I could not contain my excitement, because what lay on the other side was a new world, a new country filled with people who live in a different culture, speak another language, and live a completely different life than I do. After our layover in Amsterdam we flew to Vienna, Austria, where our first week of the program would be spent. Our professor and guide met us out of customs and we loaded into a van and off we went. I will never forget the feeling of driving through Vienna for the first time. From that very moment I knew that Vienna would be one of my favorite places we visited, and I was right! Over the coming weeks we visited Ljubljana and Zagreb, which were both more beautiful and amazing then I could have ever imagined. Each city held its own identity, its own story and discovering what that story was is what makes me want to go back. Being in a city that has existed for probably thousands of years really puts the world into perspective.
The CEESP consisted of one to two company visits a day followed by free time in the afternoon. Some of our visits included and ancient porcelain manufacturer named Augarten, and private plane company named Diamond Aircraft, and even Bombardier Transportation which makes commercial aircraft and city ground transportation. In total we visited 19 companies over the three weeks.
In retrospect you always realize some things that were off or different while you were there. For instance, in Slovenia students rarely ask questions or even act engaged in a formal classroom or conference room setting. When we attended presentations from the companies you could see the surprise and shock in some of the employees eyes when we began asking questions at the end of the presentation.
Overall I could not be more thankful to Auburn for the opportunities it provides us. Studying abroad can be one of the most memorable and impactful experiences of your life. Traveling Europe with students your age living almost however you would like is not an opportunity that comes along often and I am so thankful I took advantage of it when I could.
I’m coming back for you Europe!
— JD Landrum
AU Business – Central and Eastern European Studies Program